The Newport String Project is anchored by the activities of its resident musicians who lead the organization and whose roles are a unique blend of artistry, education and community-building.
Ealaín McMullin - Co-Founder, Director, Violinist
Inspired by the opportunity to blend chamber music with education and community building, Ealaín co-founded the Newport String Project in 2012. Ealaín was first introduced to chamber music though concerts given by the Apple Hill Chamber Players near her home in Donegal, Ireland. This led to many happy summers studying at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music in New Hampshire and since 2014, Ealaín has served on the faculty at Apple Hill’s summer festival. She studied at the Boston Conservatory, where she was a member of the Bricolage String Quartet, the Conservatory’s honors ensemble. She has performed with members of the Apple Hill, Brooklyn Rider, Lydian and Miro String Quartets and has performed at the West Cork Chamber Music Festival (Ireland) and Music From Salem (New York). A graduate of Trinity College, Dublin and the Boston Conservatory, Ealaín’s teachers have included Michael D’Arcy, Elise Kuder, Mike Kelley and Lenny Matczynski.
Jacob Mackay - Resident Musician, Cellist
Cellist Jacob MacKay has performed as a soloist and chamber musician throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. A believer in music as a vehicle for social change, Jacob is involved with diverse teaching and performance projects that bring classical music to new audiences, highlight cultural challenges in our society, and spotlight underrepresented communities.
In 2016, Jacob began teaching at Neighborhood Strings, an El-Sistema-inspired program in Worcester, Massachusetts. Run by the Worcester Chamber Music Society, Neighborhood Strings provides free private lessons and chamber music coachings to middle and high school students in underserved neighborhoods. On a 2014 Middle East concert tour representing the Al Kamandjati Association, Jacob led introductory music workshops for first graders at UNRWA schools in the Al Amari and Qalandiah Refugee Camps. In 2016, he returned to Palestine for the Ramallah Orchestra Tour through Jerusalem and the West Bank, and coached beginning chamber music groups at the Deir Ghassana Center.
Jacob has participated in masterclasses with noted ensembles such as the American, Artemis, Shanghai, Lydian, and Ciompi String Quartets. In 2016, he graduate Summa Cum Laude from Brandeis University with degrees in Environmental Studies and Cello Performance. He was awarded a four-year Leonard Bernstein Music Fellowship, and was a recipient of the Coffey Award for “excellence in the performance of music” and the Fisher Prize for “extraordinary achievement in the creative arts.” In 2019, Jacob received a master’s degree in Cello Performance from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, having studied with Norman Fischer. This is his first year working with the Newport String Project.
Jessenia Grijalva - Teaching Artist, Violinist
Jessenia Grijalva, violinist, is a Music Education student at the University of Rhode Island and a Community MusicWorks alumna from Providence, Rhode Island. Throughout her 11 years at CMW, she fell in love with the culture of such a close-knit musical community, and hopes to bring that into her own teaching. Jessenia enjoys performing in all kinds of events. As a violinist, pianist, and singer, she has often performed in festivals, concerts, and special events. She enjoys portrait photography, and fashion.
Hannah Leheny - Project Administrator
Hannah Leheny was born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island. After studying journalism for two years at the University of Connecticut, Hannah came to realize her true passion was in social justice, community building and anti-racist work. Hannah then decided to finish her undergraduate studies at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA, earning a degree in Sociology and Social Change. During this time, Hannah interned at several non-profit organizations that serve homeless and low-income individuals in the Greater Boston area. Moving back to Rhode Island post-grad, Hannah also believes in the importance of being immersed in ones community. She is persistent in keeping tabs on the art, music, grassroots and non-profit organizations in her area. This will be her second season with Newport String Project, and she remains energized about her role as Administrator among a team of talented and inspiring musicians.
EmmaLee Holmes-Hicks - Co-Founder, Violinist
EmmaLee Holmes-Hicks grew up on an organic farm where as a young girl she presented her first violin performances to a very attentive audience—her flock of merino sheep. As that violin grew from quarter- to a full-size, EmmaLee, with that expressive instrument in hand, made her way onto the stage as soloist with symphonies and then on to Carnegie Hall as a member of the Pangea String Quartet. Armed with a performance degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music and a doctoral degree from SUNY Stony Brook, EmmaLee serves as principal second violinist of the New Bedford Symphony and as a busy chamber player, on stage in venues on the East Coast, as well as the Midwest. She is on faculty at the University of Massachussetts, Dartmouth and the Birch Creek Summer Performance Center.
A firm believer that music can move people, quite literally, EmmaLee takes the lead in string bands across New England and in the Midwest where her lively fiddle music drives the spirited old-time dancing. She has played fiddle with the Rusty Pickup String Band since she was ten years old and she has taken many a championship prize at fiddle competitions.
*EmmaLee stepped down from her position as Newport String Project Director in June 2019
Past resident musicians of the Newport String Project have included Josie Davis, Ashley Frith, Jaime Feldman, Gillian Gallagher and Zan Berry.
The Newport String Project Board of Directors
Dr Garry Fischer, MD