A visit to Community MusicWorks

Last week I drove down to Providence with friend/colleague Javier Caballero, program and development coordinator of Project STEP, to attend a Community MusicWorks seminar on the use of technology in fund raising. The seminar itself was great as always; informative, fun, creative, etc. We decided to stay a bit afterward, to tour the CMW office and see their lesson site (the Met School, Peace Street Campus).

First off, I always love popping into the CMW office on Westminster – always something new to check out on the wall, and a friendly, laid-back atmosphere where everyone is welcome. The first thing of note was a student who had wandered in to the office simply to hang out and help out, of his own accord.  This student was about to attend Phase II, which happens every other Friday and is a place where CMW teens gather and work on various music and social change projects. I believe the recent project is their annual Youth Salon, coming up soon, where the teens create their own event to benefit a local or global cause.

When we arrived at the Met school, I was first struck by the layout of the rooms they use for their teaching. There is a big space in the center, with tables, and classrooms (with glass windows and doors) radiate out from the large room in a circle. Ideal for combinations of large and small groups, and individual lessons, with a very open, inclusive, and communicative feel.

CMW fellow Rachel Panitch had brought snacks this week, but most weeks they partner with a Johnson and Wales chef/educator who prepares and provides a tasty and healthful meal in the school kitchen while educating the kids about nutrition and local ingredients. Awesome!

The kids began trickling in shortly after we arrived. This was my favorite part. Lots of greetings of various types, among students, teachers, and us, the guests. Fidelia “Kirby” Vasquez, a Phase III member of the CMW board, and a student at Classical High, recognized me right away. I have met her like once before, but in atypical teen fashion, she began chatting with me like a peer. She was so excited to share with me an improvised composition she had just put together with some friends a couple days before. Not as part of an assignment, or prompted by anyone at CMW, but just friends hanging out, playing cello, viola and violin and recording a song they had written together.  I listened to it with her I-pod and head phones, and I was very impressed.

I invited her to the BPQ improvisation workshop on April 4th (click here for more info), and she invited me to a panel discussion she is participating in, representing CMW, on April 5th at Tufts. She was really excited to hear that the Boston Public Quartet is creating a residency inspired by Community MusicWorks.  We agreed to become facebook friends too.

Then the CMW fellows began running through the Samuel Barber quartet that they are preparing for an upcoming concert. Phase II students pulled up chairs and listened intently to the beautiful playing. The fellows quartet sounded great!; blended sound and articulation, real musical communication. We were all transported to that place where only live music, up close, can take you.

As we were getting back into the car to head back to Boston, another Phase III student, Josh Rodriguez, walked up. Javier jumped out of the car and they hugged -they knew each other from Apple Hill, a place where all become bonded for life.

I encourage anyone interested in the work of arts and social change to pay an in-person visit to Community MusicWorks, and soon.