Who Let the Frogs Out? A Postcard from the Newport String Project







I recently discovered that the beloved game of skipping stones across water has a variety of other names in other countries – ducks and drakes (UK), dragonflies (Czech), throwing a sandwich (Finnish) and the Ukrainian name is zapuskaty zhabky which translates to “letting the frogs out”.

What has me thinking about skipping stones, you ask?

As musicians engaged in community residencies, we are constantly experimenting – tweaking traditional concert formats to engage new people, bringing a new game to a classroom of violin students – to build meaningful connections between people. And, that moment of trying something new in pursuit of connection, is a lot like the moment when you let go of the pebble to see how far it will bounce.

















As anyone with stone-skipping prowess will tell you, much depends on finding the right pebbles. And we have been incredibly lucky with our plentiful supply! The Newport String Project is now in its fifth season – thanks to incredible community support, this year, myself and Emmy have been joined by violist Ashley Frith and cellist Jaime Feldman. Together we perform as the Newport String Quartet and curate educational programming that provides free violin, viola and cello lessons to almost forty students aging from Pre-K to fifth graders. There have been many, many “pebbles” along the way. And there have definitely been some “clunkers”– unruly frogs, you might say – but some of the more successful “pebbles” have led to signature events like the Paper Orchestra concerts (see highlights from our most recent one here) and the community barn dance series and many rich collaborations with local organizations.

Every so often, there’s the magical combination of pebble, technique and environmental conditions – and you realize that the pebbles are bouncing a lot further than you imagined, maybe in ways you hadn’t even noticed or realized. Like when our oldest students are recruiting their friends to come join the Newport String Project. Like when a younger sibling already knows a song because they’ve learnt it from an older brother or sister. Like when you notice a parent absorbed in watching their child’s lesson and marveling at the complexity of skills they’re learning. Like when an audience member finds you after a concert to ask what works by that composer they should listen to next. These moments are energizing, humbling and bring much needed detail to the sweeping Big Picture flow of this work.

-Ealain McMullin, Newport String Project Co-Director








Learn more about Newport String Project here!