Fifth Annual Paper Orchestra Building Workshop

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!

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You can never have enough masking tape!

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Collaboration is key!

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The painting station is definitely a big favorite!

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Making paper instruments... and making memories together!

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It's gonna be a big year!

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Newport String Project Quartet at the Broadway Street Fair

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“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

 

Season Opening Concert at the Newport Art Museum

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! 

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Meet our new Associate Musicians - Ashley & Jaime!

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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...

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"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."

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"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."

Spring Appeal

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.

Thank you!

EmmaLee and Ealain

Action shots from our May Student Recital

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 ealain@newportstringproject.org

Many thanks to Barbara Renner for these images!

Highlights from our April String Quartet Residency

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.

Inspiration from the Sound Accord

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...

Good news for barndance fans!

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:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/29/well/walk-stretch-or-dance-dancing-may-be-best-for-the-brain.html

Bringing the heat to the Firehouse

For our first concert at The Firehouse Theater, we chose to bring a program of 20th and 21st century works for strings and percussion. This special collaboration, with guest musicians Zan Berry (cello) and Piero Guimaraes (marimba and vibraphone), featured works by Golijov, Piazzolla, Shostakovich and the American premiere of Sones de America by Cuban-Spanish composer Igmar Alderete.

Many thanks to Morgan Macia for these images. 

Paper Orchestra Concert and Presentation Night

Since September, the newest and youngest group of students at the Newport String Project have been learning about music and the violin. The group class meets twice per week and explores singing and movement. At the center of each class, are the beautiful paper violins that students made and decorated at the beginning of the year. The paper violin is a tool to learn new words, gain familiarity with how to hold the instrument, and grow more comfortable handling a violin. Each week, a new part of the violin is added and over time, the violins come to life...signaling that soon the students will receive their real violins!

 

After weeks of anticipation, the students were ready for the Paper Violin Ceremony. Students sang songs and shared with their families what they have learned since the beginning of the year. Finally, each student presented their paper violin to their parents in return for their new, real violin from Ms. Ealain.

It was a moving and joyful occasion and the students were glowing and proud. I feel fortunate for the opportunity to teach alongside Ealain this year. I have loved watching the students grow their musical understanding and develop their ears and singing voices. The students are curious, engaged, and eager to learn. I can't wait to begin teaching them with their new instruments in hand!

Bookfair at Barnes and Noble... and help us create a classroom library!

We are thrilled to share news of our upcoming bookfair at Barnes and Noble in Middletown this Sunday February 12th from 10am-7pm!

Participating couldn't be easier - when you are ready to checkout, simply mention that you would like to support the bookfair and a percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting the Newport String Project!

To celebrate, we'll have a fun line-up of special events happening at the store:

10.30am Check out performances by students from the Newport String Project, including a special appearance by this year's Paper Orchestra!

11.00am Musical Storytime (Great for ages 5-10!)

12.00pm-2pm Duo performance by Ealain and EmmaLee

Can't make it on Sunday? Not to worry, you can still participate!  To support us online, you can go to bn.com/bookfairs from 02/12/17 to 02/17/17 and enter Bookfair ID 12095980 at checkout. (So you have a whole SIX DAYS to support the fair!)

And if you'd like to DOUBLE your impact...

You can help us create a classroom library for our students by purchasing and donating a book for our shelf at the MLK! Check out our wishlist of children's books inspired by music and social justice HERE.

Books can be given to us in-person at Barnes and Noble on February 12th, or shipped to our mailing address at the bottom of this email, or dropped off at the MLK Center.

Recent Student Reflections

"It would be really cool if everyone played some instrument. We could dance and just play, because not everyone gets to. If two people knew a song but didn’t get along, they would still be able to play together - on the thing that they’re good at."

"My favorite song is ‘Lil Liza Jane’ - because I like how it sounds and it makes me feel excited and happy. I like that it’s kind of challenging to play. I just need some time but I can do it."

"My favorite piece is Lil Liza Jane. I just have to dance to it. It brings out my outer music. It makes me feel free."

"If everyone in Newport played an instrument, it would be cool because they'd all play music. I like music so much. It would make me seen."

"I would like more people to join the String Project. More concerts would help more people to come to the project.  I would have more friends if more people joined.  I would get to see more people."

"I'm hoping that a bunch of new people will come to the Newport String Project so that I can help teach them.  I want to learn long, hard songs not short stubby songs like a baby learning to walk."

 

"If everyone was a musician in Newport, they will always feel good.  They will be happy.  There will be more parades.  People would travel to Newport to hear everyone play.  People would feel more brave, there would be more justice."

Mendelssohn, Maconchy and Dvorak at Ochre Court

On Sunday January 29th 2017, the Newport String Project will present perennial favorite Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings in the vibrant setting of Ochre Court at Salve Regina University. The concert brings together a dynamic group of musicians working at the leading edge of socially engaged chamber music in Rhode Island and beyond. The program also features Antonin Dvorak’s folk-tinged Miniatures for Two Violins and Viola and Elizabeth Maconchy’s atmospheric String Quartet No 3. The concert is presented in partnership with Salve Regina University and begins at 3.00pm at Ochre Court.

Suggested Donation $10, $25 and $50+

All proceeds support the performance and educational programming of the Newport String Project. 

Matters of the Mind

With the first Community Barndance of the year right around the corner, the connections between music and dance are especially on our minds this week.

Researchers from the International Laboratory for Brain, Music, and Sound Research in Montreal, Canada recently set out to compare and contrast the neurological changes within the brain that training in music and dance produce.

Happily, there is plenty of research already out there to support the idea that learning a musical instrument strengthens and builds neural pathways - specifically in the corpus callosum, the area that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. We especially love the metaphor of fireworks going off in your brain. All good news for our young music students at the MLK Center! By comparison, research about the impact of dance on the brain is more scarce. 

This recent Montreal study used sophisticated brain imaging techniques which revealed fascinating differences in the white matter structure of musicians and dancers. For dancers, the sets of connections in the white matter were more diffuse and broad. Musicians had the same connections which were stronger, less diffuse and showed more coherence in their fiber bundles.

As lead author Chiara Giacosa explains, "This suggests that dance and music training affect the brain in opposite directions, increasing global connectivity and crossing of fibers in dance training, and strengthening specific pathways in music training,”

 

These differences might be explained by the dancer's use of the "whole body" which may encourage the fibers to cross over and spread out, whereas musicians tend to focus on specific body parts which encourages very specific cortical activity in the brain.

For more on this research, head over HERE.

So the evidence of benefits of training in music and dance is incredibly compelling - you might say it's a "no-brainer"...