Many thanks to our friends Jack Renner and Mary Renfrow for these images of the young musicians in action!
It has been a remarkable fall at the Newport String Project! Over the summer, we were fortunate to be able to hire two wonderful colleagues, Ashley Frith (viola) and Jaime Feldman (cello). Now with a full complement of four musicians, we are performing and teaching as the Newport String Project’s first quartet-in-residence, the Newport String Quartet. Only three months into our fifth season, we are experiencing the positive impact of this change in many exciting ways.
In sharing the following highlights, it is important to emphasize that these programs are made possible by the generosity of supporters like you. We hope that you will consider making a donation this month to help make possible our fifth year of creating inspiring and accessible musical experiences for all.
Our free after-school music programming at the MLK Center is thriving. With the addition of Ashley and Jaime, our enrollment jumped to 39 students who participate in twice-weekly lessons. For the first time, we can offer cello lessons, meeting our goal of offering instruction in all the instruments of a string quartet. And a Very Young Musicians class, led by Jaime, is engaging an additional 15 preschoolers in a curriculum of movement, dancing and singing.
Due to our increased capacity, more children than ever before are benefitting from one-to-one mentoring, increasing the amount of individual attention for each student. Students are even getting their first taste of chamber music, working together in small groups.
Alongside our busy teaching activities, the Newport String Quartet’s performing life has also had a busy start. From outdoor performances at the Broadway Street Fair to more traditional concerts at the Newport Art Museum and Trinity Church, we are digging into the question of how a string quartet can play a meaningful civic role in Newport.
There is still time to catch the Newport String Quartet in action in 2017: Please join us on Sunday, December 17th at 3pm at the Redwood Library for a vibrant program of works including Mozart’s sublime String Quintet in D Major, K. 593 and Prokofiev’s evocative String Quartet No. 2.
We also want you to know that, behind the scenes, we are hard at work developing plans to bring the Newport String Project into its next phase of organizational development. A five-member advisory committee is supporting us to become our own 501c3 nonprofit organization in 2018, increasing our infrastructure and building a board of directors.
Thank you for your enthusiasm for our work—we appreciate your support so much. Please consider including the Newport String Project in your year-end giving. Donations can be made through our website (www.newportstringproject.org/donate) or mailed to the Newport String Project, 1392 Westminster Street, Providence RI 02909.
EmmaLee and Ealain
Newport String Project Directors
Our fifth season has brought many concrete changes - new students, new staff members, new curriculum elements - and as we reflect on the journey since the Newport String Project launched four years ago, we are struck by the more hidden impact of these changes.
This year, we are fortunate to be joined by Jaime and Ashley as Associate Musicians. And while their presence makes a huge difference in lots of public ways - performing as the Newport String Quartet and expanding our student enrollment - we are already noticing the impact in less visible, although still very tangible ways. We see it in the warmth of the interactions between Jaime, Ashley and the families in the program. We also see it though the new games and songs that our students are learning from them. From our perspective as directors, it is also wonderful to have two more people to share teaching stories (and challenges) with - there is simply a sense of having more company for the journey ahead.
Our student enrollment is currently at thirty-nine - a significant increase from the twenty-five students in our first year. What that number doesn't reveal is how the recruitment process has evolved since the program's launch. Parents now have a deeper understanding of what the program has to offer and spread the word with other families. The students are eager for their school friends to join and the "sibling effect" has been a powerful factor in inspiring younger brothers and sisters to get in on the action. There is an increase not just in the numbers of students, but also an increase in the complexity of the learning environment. In the first season, students participated exclusively in group classes. Today students are participating in both individual lessons and group classes. Students are making progress at different rates and in different directions. Providing responsive teaching is demanding, rich work that requires significant planning time. We are also noticing a beautiful deepening of parent engagement. More parents than ever are staying to watch the lessons and are highly motivated to know how they can help their child practice at home.
Perhaps most striking of all has been a shift towards a sense of pattern, routine and ritual. It is especially exciting to see how the students who have been with us since the beginning, are spontaneously making the experience their own. Every Newport String Project day is jam-packed with tiny moments, successes and details that remind us of the importance of embracing the twists and turns of long-term journeys.
Change seems to follow a cycle of happening "bit by bit", seemingly "not at all" and then magically "all at once". This season has a little bit of that "all at once" energy. We hope to continue to share perspectives from students, parents and audience members throughout the year on how the Newport String Project's work is evolving for them. If you would like to support our mission, please consider making a gift through our Donate section.
With best wishes for the holiday season
Ealain and EmmaLee
Newport String Project Directors
A huge thanks to our friends at Common Fence Music, St John's on the Point and from the Rhode Island Fiddle Project. It was another roof-raising barndance!
One happy dancer later described it as "a heavenly blend of music, motion and generations." We couldn't agree more!
It turns out that learning an instrument is a very serious business.... Sometimes.
Many thanks to Jack Renner for this gallery of images from our Trinity Church concert!
Presented in partnership with Common Fence Music and St John's Church! Save the date for the first community barndance of the season on November 12th from 2pm-4pm...
The happiest of chaos - hard as it is to believe, the FIFTH paper orchestra began its journey last week! This event never fails to be fun-filled mayhem and this year had the added excitement of building cardboard cellos for the first time. As always, it proved to be a fantastic opportunity for the moms, dads and siblings to get in on the action as the newest crop of young musicians begin their journey!
You can never have enough masking tape!
Collaboration is key!
The painting station is definitely a big favorite!
Making paper instruments... and making memories together!
It's gonna be a big year!
“When the quartet was asked to perform some classical hits and pop tunes at the Broadway Street Fair, i had no idea what reaction to expect. As our first chord drifted through the square, I felt the passing crowds’ curiosity shifting towards our sound. As we continued to play, a small audience grew in front of us, happily applauding after each selection. I noticed children with their parents, and families with their friends smiling at us. Passers-by occasionally stopped to comment, “loving it!” or “keep it going!” I was touched by the appreciation and enthusiasm we received, and honored to be playing on this bright afternoon, in such a beautiful town as Newport. I realized how incredible it was to be giving the community something to enjoy, while we were enjoying the entire process. As we invited our audience to join our musical experience, they further welcomed and enjoyed our music. What had 30 minutes ago been a space of individuals and separate groups, had suddenly united a small crowd of all ages as they experienced music together.”
-Jaime Feldman, cellist
An exciting start to our fifth season at the start of this month! The first movement of Schubert's String Quintet in C Major was our musical curtain raiser and gave us a wonderful opportunity to welcome the Newport String Project's new cellist-in-residence Jaime Feldman. We were thrilled to be joined by longtime NSP favorites Jesse Holstein and Heath Marlow for a performance of Beethoven's epic String Quartet in c sharp minor op. 131.
The concert was the culmination of another rehearsal retreat at the incredible Avaloch Farm Music Institute, where we ate so much delicious food, met inspiring musical colleagues from all over the country and savored the opportunity to dive deeply into the incredible universe of op. 131!
This year, we are thrilled to welcome Ashley Frith (viola) and Jaime Feldman (cello) to the Newport String Project as Associate Musicians! Together with EmmaLee and Ealain, they will be performing as the Newport String Project's first quartet-in-residence. As well as performing, they will be joining our teaching staff and leading new pieces of educational programming. Here they share a little bit about their backgrounds, what brought them to the Newport String Project and what they are looking forward to this year...
"My name is Ashley and I hail from Miami, Fl. It was there (aided by my Jamaican heritage) that I developed a dependency on the sun and mangoes. When I was 10 years old, my music teacher at school needed an excuse to get students to play a big, but really beautiful, instrument none of us had heard of. He told me, because I was a tall girl (but definitely not the tallest), that this was the instrument for me. And thus, my relationship with the viola began.
When not attempting to gently coexist and create with my large musical companion, I'm hopefully spending quality time with miniature humans. It is an absolute joy getting to help them comfortably and happily coexist with their music-making partners (wooden and human). Sans music, I'm hopefully eating something really tasty, that preferably came from a tree or a bush. I'm so excited to join the amazing humans of the Newport String Project this year, and equally excited to get acquainted with Aquidneck Island. I always thought that Florida aspired to be an island, but got separation anxiety."
"My name is Jaime, I am thrilled to be joining the Newport String Project this year as the cellist in residence. After attending a live chamber music performance at the Kneisel Hall Music Festival in Brooklin, ME., I was determined to play the cello. I later fell in love with chamber music as a twelve year old student at Music@Menlo festival in Palo Alto CA, captivated by a performance of the Emerson String quartet. I love playing chamber music with others, and am passionate about mentoring and teaching young children. I believe learning to collaborate is fundamental to our society, which starts with children’s education. Teaching children how to listen, have fun, and work together in a music ensemble gives them important life-long skills, and is the key to a strong and supportive community.
This fall of 2017, I am excited to be launching Newport String Project’s first pre-k program, an introduction to music making for ages three-five. I’m forward to performing for diverse audiences, and continuing to connect with and bring music to the various communities in Newport. In my free time, I enjoy running on trails, summer-time hiking in the Maine woods, picking wild flowers, trying new cheeses, conversing with every new cat or dog I meet, and traveling to new places."
Over the past four years, the Newport String Project has grown into something very special. It is more than a concert series, and more than an after-school program. Our work does not fall into one category or the other – it embraces both performance and education, and in the intersection, it creates fertile ground for meaningful community engagement.
When we launched the Newport String Project four years ago, our goal was to establish a resident string quartet by our fifth year. That milestone is fast approaching and we are more committed than ever to making this idea a reality.
Why a string quartet?
String quartets model collaboration through a nuanced four-way process of expressing ideas, listening, and adjusting to each other. In today’s divisive social and political climate, these processes are more needed than ever. A string quartet provides a powerful model for exploring how neighbors interact and how they can create change in a community.
As Newport’s resident string quartet, we plan to
- Energize the musical landscape through performances that transform perspectives and expectations
- Expand opportunities for kids to learn an instrument, develop musical curiosity, and ignite imaginations
- Participate actively in the local ecology of organizations working towards greater social inclusion
What will it take?
We are prepared to seek out and recruit two highly qualified professional musicians—a violist and a cellist—to join us in Newport. Each week, they will perform, rehearse, teach, and mentor alongside us. Now we need your financial support to make this possible. Our community’s support has been integral to the success of our first four years, and it is essential for driving our work forward to its next phase. While we prepare to launch our fifth year in September, we need to meet our goal of raising at least $10,000 by June 30. Raising this amount will allow us to take the steps necessary to establish a resident string quartet in Newport. Every gift – whether $5 or $5,000 – will help us get there. For details on how to make a gift, click here.
We are grateful for all of the encouragement that we have received to date, and we couldn’t be more excited as we enter this next stage of growth. Thank you for your generous support of our important mission.
EmmaLee and Ealain
Monday's student recital featured group performances by students from all four years of the Newport String Project's existence. The wise and experienced fourth graders cheered for the kindergarteners and first-graders. And when it came time for the most advanced students to show off their skills, the youngest students were noticeably impressed! The enthusiasm of the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and teachers in the room was especially palpable and gave a very special flavor to the evening. The students are now preparing for a recital of solo performances on June 5th - for any community members interested in attending, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Many thanks to Barbara Renner for these images!
Our thanks to Jody Brown for these terrific images!
This April, EmmaLee, Ealain and Josie were joined by cellist Jacob McKay for a string quartet residency that brought a diverse range of special events to venues in Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth.The residency had three components:
- A lecture-recital collaboration with the Newport Historical Society, exploring the impact of the Germania Musical Society on the cultural landscape of Newport in the 19th century. The courtroom of Colony House made for a dramatic setting for the concert which music composed and championed by the Germania Musical Society. The weather provided some unexpected drama to the performance of Mendelssohn's String quartet in f minor op 80 with some beautifully timed - all planned of course!
- A pop-up performance by the quartet at the Aquidneck Growers' Market featuring music by Mozart, the Beatles, Gershwin and many others... The grown-up musicians were delighted to be joined by our students for a special set of fiddle tunes. The students played with confidence and style for a packed house at the farmer's market.
- The residency came to a festive close with an evening of music and wine at Greenvale Vineyards...
Photography by Jack Renner.
One of the Newport String Project's goals is to create opportunities for our young violin and viola students to meet and be inspired by musicians from diverse backgrounds. A few weeks ago, we were overjoyed to welcome The Sound Accord to the MLK center for music, dancing, community and extraordinary amounts of pizza! The band, comprised of two violins, viola, and three cellos, wowed parents and students with their special blend of energetic folk tunes, playful arrangements and tons of charm! At the post-concert pizza party, parents talked excitedly about how fun it was to share the experience with other families. One parent observed how focused the students were as they listened to the musicians. A crowd favorite was when the band led us all in an epic circle dance. One student chose three words to describe the occasion - "danceful", "joyful" and "fun"... We couldn't agree more! A huge thank you to the Sound Accord and fantastic photographer Don Farias for these terrific pictures...
Every season the Newport String Project presents two community barndances in partnership with lots of fantastic local organizations including Common Fence Music, Emmanuel Church and the Boys and Girls Club!
There are lots of reasons to love the barndances - and the science world has just discovered another one to add to the list. Here the NY Times reports on a study showing the positive impact that dancing has on the brain: