Season Finale Concert this Weekend!

Fellows Quartet Concert Flyer

Join us for a fabulously festive and vibrant program of chamber music at Trinity Church on May 24th at 3.30pm. The concert will be a celebration of the Newport String Project’s inaugural year and will look ahead to what’s in store for the project next year.

We are delighted to announce that this concert will bring together past and current fellows from Community MusicWorks (Providence) – young professional musicians who are at the leading edge of a field that explores the intersection between artistry, teaching and community.

Bacewicz Quartetto for Four Violins (1949)
Ealain McMullin, EmmaLee Holmes-Hicks, Shawn le Sure (CMW Fellow ’15), Rhiannon Banerdt (CMW Fellow ’15), violins

Beethoven String Quartet op 59 no 1 in F Major
EmmaLee Holmes-Hicks, Ealain McMullin, violins
Annalisa Boerner (CMW Fellow ’14), viola
Lauren Latessa (CMW Fellow ’14) cello

*Reception to follow*

Admission is free – Donations will be accepted at the door.

If you have attended our concerts this year, we look forward to seeing you again and hope you’ll bring some new friends with you! If this will be your first Newport String Project concert, that is great news too!

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Musical flights to the Norman Bird Sanctuary on March 29th

We are delighted to announce details of our next concert at the Norman Bird Sanctuary on March 29th at 7.30pm. (Did you catch the recent NY Times article on the farmhouse at the sanctuary?)

Joined by superb guest harpsichordist Paul Cienniwa, EmmaLee and Ealaín will be performing sonatas by Corelli and Bach as well as a few contemporary pieces. It promises to be a delectable evening of chamber music and dessert in front of a roaring fire at Mabel’s Studio.


Guest Artist Paul Cienniwa

Tickets are $15 for Norman Bird Sanctuary members and $20 for non-members. All proceeds will go to support the mission of the Newport String Project and the Norman Bird Sanctuay.

It is sure to fill up early so register early and spread the word!  Click here to register for tickets.

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March Musician Spotlight – Aaron Jackson, piano

We are very much looking forward to this weekend’s concert at Channing Memorial Church and delighted to be joined by Providence-based pianist composer, Aaron Jackson.


Composer and pianist Aaron Jackson offers programs that combine his original compositions and improvisations with selections from the classical repertoire, with an emphasis on music from the 20th century.  His 2012-2013 season featured works by Beethoven, Brahms and Bacewicz; Liszt, Janacek and Dvorak; Babbitt, Lieberson, and Shifrin; Scriabin, Copland and Rautavaara; all in programs that also featured his own music, including the premiere of his Piano Sonata. Recent collaborations include Chroma for jazz trumpeter Ben Holmes; a Trio for  violin, cello, and piano, with musicians Chase Spruill and Adrienne Taylor from Providence’s Community Music Works; and a set of 24 preludes for piano created in conjunction with a corresponding series of paintings by his wife, artist Prachie Narain Jackson, called The Book of Wandering.

Aaron grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, where he discovered the music of local composer Milton Babbitt.  At age 15 he performed several Babbitt pieces at a solo recital of contemporary piano music, which was subsequently repeated at the Juilliard School in New York. Babbitt became a friend and mentor, encouraging Aaron to supplement his studies at Juilliard by working with pianist Robert Taub, who was then artist-in-residence at the Institute of Advanced Study; and to attend Princeton University, where he studied philosophy and music. He went on to study music theory and composition at Columbia University, where he met and became a student of pianist Marilyn Nonken.

More information is available at his website,

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March Musician Spotlight – Megan Koch, cello

We are delighted to be joined for this Saturday’s concert at Channing Memorial Church by cellist Megan Koch. Below is a lightning round interview with Megan and you can also read her complete bio over on our guest artist page.

Megan headshot (496x640)

Can you tell us a little bit about your earliest days playing the cello?
I started cello when I was 4 years old.  I don’t remember too much from then… but I’m sure it involved a lot of Twinkles!  One of my favorite pictures that I have from back then is a picture of me holding my cello next to a Rubbermaid stool that served as my chair.
How did you know that you wanted to pursue cello professionally?
I didn’t know until I was a junior in high school that I really wanted to pursue cello as a profession.  Cello was always a big part of my life, but I think the turning point was an opportunity that I had to play in a masterclass for Yo-Yo Ma.  It was a great experience to play for someone I idolized, and he was so inspiring, friendly and down to earth.  It made me want to continue to learn and share music in a meaningful way.
I know that you are an avid chamber musician – is there a piece of chamber music that you haven’t played yet that would be on your dream list?
That’s a tough question.  I’ve performed a lot of chamber music but there’s still a lot to get to!  I think Mendelssohn Piano Trio No. 1 would be a top contender on my dream list.
Can you share any insights into the music on this weekend’s concert? What can our audience look forward to?
I’ve really enjoyed working on these two pieces with Aaron, Ealain, and Emmy.  Beethoven’s Piano Trio Op. 1 No. 1 is an early piece of his, and while at first it seemed pretty straight forward, it’s been really interesting to delve further into it, and discover all the many nuances of the work.  The scherzo was a movement not common in piano trio repertoire at this time, and yet Beethoven added it here in his first published works.  The Bagatelles is a fun piece… listen for melodic material from the first movement to reappear throughout the composition.
What do you find is the biggest challenge in teaching music? The biggest reward?
My biggest challenge in teaching music is having kids see the big picture of hard work paying off.  The biggest reward is seeing kids get excited about music.
Is there anything that you weren’t taught by your music teachers but that you try to pass along to your own students?
That’s a hard one.  I’ve had amazing teachers and they’ve helped shape who I am as both a person and a musician.  One thing though that I’ve learned as I’ve gone along and would like to share with my students, is to find what makes you unique and special as a musician!


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Beethoven and Dvorak at Channing Memorial Church


This Saturday March 8th at 7pm, the Newport String Project presents a concert featuring music by Beethoven and Dvorak at Channing Memorial Church, 135 Pelham St, Newport RI 02840. We are delighted to be joined by two superb guest artists, Megan Koch, cello and Aaron Jackson, piano.

For composers, choosing the work that will be your opus 1 is a very significant decision. You will have the opportunity to hear Beethoven’s remarkably forward thinking Piano Trio op 1 no 1.


We will also be taking a jaunt through the sunny Bohemian countryside courtesy of Antonin Dvorak. His Malickosti (Bagatelles) op. 47 were written in the first twelve days of May 1878 for two violins, cello and a little foot-pedalled reed organ called a harmonium. The first of the bagatelles features a Czech folksong called Hraly Dudy (“The Pipes are Playing”) which returns throughout the piece – you can listen to the original Czech folksongIMG_4346_21.jpg here.


All welcome – bring your friends!

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Community Barn Dance comes to Emmanuel Church on March 2nd

Promenade and do-si-do, swing your partner, here we go.

Barn Dance Flyer

Community Barn Dance ~ Sunday, March 2, 2 pm 
Emmanuel Church

The Newport String Project and Common Fence Music are bringing an old-time barn dance to Newport and everyone is welcome. Learn what country folks did for fun back in the good old days, when families, friends and neighbors set their work aside and gathered to kick up their heels.  These simple old-time dances are fun for all ages.  No partner or experience necessary.


Champion fiddler and co-director of the Newport String Project, EmmaLee Holmes-Hicks and guitarist Tom Perrotti will provide the toe-tappin’ music.  And master caller Jim Hicks is coming all the way from Illinois to teach the dances and make sure everyone has a good time.

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Weather Update – Concert at Empire Cancelled for Snow

With much deliberation, we have decided to cancel today’s preview performance at Empire Tea and Coffee because of the snow forecast for this evening! Stay safe and warm and we look forward to tomorrow’s performance at the Redwood Library and Athenaeum at 2pm.

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Announcing details of our February Concert Weekend


The wintry weather makes it the perfect time to enjoy some live chamber music in a cosy room. Happily, the Newport String Project can offer just the thing next weekend (February 15th and 16th)!

We are delighted to be joined by wonderful guest artists, Annalisa Boerner, viola and Ariana Falk, cello. (You can read more about Annalisa and Ariana over on our guest artists page.) The program will feature Haydn’s quirky String Quartet op 20 no 3 and Borodin’s beloved String Quartet No 2.

On Saturday February 15th at 6.30pm, we’ll be giving an informal performance at Empire Tea and Coffee on Broadway. One of the best cures for the February doldrums is sipping a hot mug of something delicious and being immersed in string quartets. Admission is free.

There will be another opportunity to hear the Haydn and Borodin on Sunday 16th at 2.00pm in the beautiful and historic Harrison Room of the Redwood Library and Athenaeum. Admission is free for library members and $5 for non-members. We look forward to seeing you there!


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Meet January’s Guest Artists – Ben Nacar, piano

We are delighted to be joined by pianist and composer Ben Nacar for this weekend’s performance of Brahms and Stravinsky.


Ben Nacar (photo credit – Keith Jochim)

Can you tell us the story of how you began playing the piano?
When I was four my father started schooling me. To see how I responded to sounds, he got a tiny electronic keyboard that played just one note at a time. He found that I could distinguish pitches and remember sequences of notes. To make my play and the experiments more complex we got a larger keyboard that could sound multiple notes at a time. This instrument had no piano “action” and no dynamic control so after some time we got an upright piano. Capturing the full range of the piano’s tone colors eventually became crucial, so then we got a grand piano. The whole thing was an evolving discovery.

You are also a composer – can you tell us a little bit about your music and your inspirations?

“Reactionary” would be a reasonable assessment of my music. My primary influences are all the great classical composers from Bach to Rachmaninoff, plus a few Broadway and film composers, and some American folk and jazz. You can find score excerpts of my cello sonata and other things I’ve written at my website (

You will be performing both the Stravinsky and the Brahms at our concert next week –  the pieces are very different from each other but have you found any unexpected connections between the works?

On the contrary, the more I play them the more different they seem to get. In the Piano Trio I experience Brahms’ complete fidelity to Romanticism; it is tinged throughout with melancholy, even in the Scherzo.  In the “Suite Italienne,” by contrast, Stravinsky is carefree “playing around with” composers from an earlier era, and though he approaches being lyrical at times, he avoids any temptation to introspection and any seizing of self-moments.

We couldn’t possibly interview you without asking about this – you perform practically everything from memory, how in the world do you do it??!

As a composer I’m always trying to figure out what other composers were (or are) up to in specific pieces, what compositional choices they had to make or problems they had to solve. And this is one of the first things I tend to think about any time I learn a new piece. Eventually the whole progression of notes from start to finish begins to seem logical and inevitable, so that I’m not so much remembering as recomposing my way through the piece.

You can find Ben’s bio on the Guest Artist page.

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Meet January’s Guest Artists – Lauren Latessa, cello

In a new series of blog posts, we will be featuring lightening round interviews with our guest artists. If any readers are curious about the creative process, inspirations and background of our guest artists, feel free to send us questions! First in the hotseat, is cellist, Lauren Latessa, who will be joining us for a performance of Brahms’ Piano Trio No 1 at Emmanuel Church on January 25th.

Lauren headshot

Lauren Latessa, cello

Can you tell us something about how you started playing the cello?

I started playing when I was six years old.  I have a great aunt who is a cellist and my Mom took me to meet her.  I didn’t know what a cello was, and when it was first described to me, I thought it was a violin!  I was completely surprised when I saw how big it was!!!

As a Fellow at Community MusicWorks, you have been immersed in ideas about the connections between music and community – can you tell us about any surprising discoveries on your journey?

I think all of us who have gone through the CMW fellowship are struck at one time or another by the remarkable way in which CMW’s music creates so many different layers of community.  I think last year’s ArtPlace concert, when Emmy and her parents band played, embodies this the best.  People of drastically different ages, ethnicity and socio-economic status came together to eat, dance and listen to the music!

You’re playing a lot of Brahms’ chamber music these days! (You can hear Lauren perform Brahms’ G Major Sextet with Community MusicWorks Players at Roger Williams University! More details here…) What’s your take on why people fall in love with his music?

Brahms’ music is amazing! It’s been great to work on the trio and sextet at the same time! I think he pushes people emotionally and I think people crave that kind of engagement in their lives.

If you had to use three words to describe Brahms’ Piano Trio in B Major….

Expansive yet surprisingly human.

You can find Lauren’s complete bio on our guest artist page.

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