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"...

Introducing our new Associate Musician, Josie Davis

Thanks to the success of our 100 Gifts Matching Grant Challenge, it is with heartfelt delight that we welcome violinist/violist Josie Davis to the Newport String Project as Associate Musician! An accomplished chamber musician dedicated to exploring the ways that music can engage people from diverse backgrounds, Josie will join the team as a teaching artist at the MLK Center and will also perform on our chamber music series. Welcome Josie!

Josie Davis began her musical studies at the age of six with Janet Ciano and Gilda Joffe. She received her undergraduate degrees in violin and sociology at Oberlin College and Conservatory where she was a student of David Bowlin. She has participated in various music festivals including the Bowdoin International Music Festival, New York University’s String Quartet Seminar, the Juilliard String Quartet Seminar, the Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival, and has appeared with her sister on NPR’s From the Top. Josie has performed in a wide-range of venues from Carnegie Hall to the Monte Music Festival in India. She is committed to using music as a way to connect with people of different cultures and backgrounds and has taught music to children in Panama and India. Josie is currently participating in a two-year fellowship program at Community MusicWorks in Rhode Island where she performs regularly and teaches a full studio of students. Outside of music, she loves cooking, hiking, pottery, and sailing along the coast of Maine.

 

Pumpkin Patch Pride

The fun thing about Year 4 is that some events are becoming a tradition! This was our fourth time bringing students to play at Trinity Church's wonderful Pumpkin Patch event - since that first year, their musicianship has blossomed as has their enthusiasm for the event! 

This year, the performance took place on Hallowe'en eve. The students were thrilled to present some scary classics for the occasion - their spooky variations on Hot Cross Buns (renamed Hot Cross Bones for this occasion by student Diego), a fall-themed version of Twinkle Twinkle and finally a piece called Halloween with a suitably screechy section...

As the grown-ups witnessing their progress, perhaps the most memorable moments were before and after the performance. As the students warmed-up before the performance - they displayed so much focus and intention, asking for last minute tips on tricky sections, helping each other by playing it through together "one more time" for practice. The generosity, warmth and kindness in their contented, excited banter was tangible.

Green room silliness

Green room silliness

Emmy even wore a Hallowe'en costume!

Emmy even wore a Hallowe'en costume!

After the performance, there was plenty of banter too. One student could be heard saying "Well, I made a few mistakes but I just tried to blend in..." and another student cheerfully responded with, "Oh, you did a great job - I was standing right next to you and I didn't hear anything!"

The day wouldn't be complete without taking advantage of the photobooth complete with haystacks and picket fence. 

As the young musicians staggered off with their larger-than-life congratulatory pumpkins, fragments of singing and humming could be heard drifting around the patch...

October Highlights - Quartet-in-Action

With the help of beautiful music-making from our dear friends and colleagues Heath Marlow (cello) and Tanya Maggi (viola), the Newport String Project launched Season Four by bringing a string quartet out and about in Newport. Highlights were bringing the quartet to visit students at the MLK Center, pop-up performances of Haydn and Schubert as part of the Broadway Street Fair and warmly received concerts at St Mary's Church Portsmouth and the Newport Art Museum... (Special thanks to Thomas Palmer and Piero Guimaraes for the images)

October String Quartet Residency

We are beyond thrilled to announce the details of the opening performance week of our fourth season!

After a blissful and productive rehearsal retreat at the Avaloch Farm Music Institute, we are busily putting the final polishing touches on a program of string quartets by Haydn and Schubert. The program will also feature some atmospheric duos for two violins by Icelandic composer Hildigunnur Runnarsdottir alongside some Bartok favorites!

There are several opportunities to catch us in action this week!

OPEN REHEARSAL at Salve Regina University, Thursday October 6th, 1-3pm. Admission is free. 

POP-UP PERFORMANCE at the Broadway Street Fair at Empire Coffee, Saturday October 8th (Early afternoon)

PREVIEW CONCERT at St Mary's Church Portsmouth, Saturday October 8th, 7pm. Tickets $20, available at the door. 

SEASON OPENING CONCERT AT THE NEWPORT ART MUSEUM, Sunday October 9th, 4pm. Tickets available here.

We look forward to seeing you there!

-EmmaLee and Ealain

Celebrating the launch of the Island Community Garden

"Hey have you heard what's happenin' here today?

It's the Newport Community Garden...."

If you were passing by the Great Friends Meeting House last Friday, it would have been hard to miss a festive occasion unfolding. The grounds of the Meeting House is now home to Newport's first community garden thanks to a fabulous partnership of between Aquidneck Community Table, the MLK Center, the Newport Historical Society and a tireless team of community members.

Our students were honored to be invited to perform for the ribbon-cutting and launch ceremony. With violins in tow, our little group set off from the MLK Center. The journey was a brief one but the novelty of walking to the performance location wasn't lost on our excited mini-orchestra. MLK after-school teacher Miss Peggy even brought along an enthusiastic fan club of students from the after-school program to cheer on the young performers.

With the sunshine smiling down, the students opened with a rousing rendition of "Newport Community Garden" (sung to the tune of English Country Gardens) followed by several fiddle tunes. What a treat it was to play for such an attentive crowd of friends, families, teachers, community members and lots and lots of canine friends!

At the Newport String Project, our philosophy is that our youth programming is more than just violin lessons... We hope that our students learn that music gives us an opportunity to consider our place in the world and it is a powerful way to participate in making our community a vibrant and healthy place to be. As we practiced for the performance, we talked about the social justice ideas behind a community garden - healthy food, access, transforming public spaces -  and that through music we can celebrate projects like the community garden. It was a beautiful opportunity for the students to play a melodious role in launching what will no doubt be an incredible resource for Newport in the years to come!

Congratulations to Aquidneck Community Table and many thanks to Tara Gragg for these images!