One exciting aspect of CMW's ongoing Mellon Foundation-funded project to share our model is known as the Third Year Fellowship. This spring, former Fellows and graduating Fellows were invited to apply for small grants that would provide seed funding for their own new or expanded programming. Two grants recipients were selected by a committee of CMW board and staff: Rachel Panitch (class of '09) and Ariana Falk (class of '12).
Rachel's proposal (excerpt)
Michelle and Rachel have worked closely together at the RI Fiddle Project over the past two years, developing the group fiddle class culture, pedagogy, procedures and repertoire. It is work that requires both long-range and short-term planning, constant revisions and reflection. This class (incorporating group fiddle playing and dance) is one of the main areas where the “alternative” element of the alternative model [from CMW] is honed and tested.
In some moments, this alternative model feels as if it’s becoming stronger – learning how to stand on its own. We see this when one of our students volunteers to lead the class in starting a tune, or helps to line the others up for a performance. At other times, the model can feel delicate and in danger of toppling over. As some of our students have entered middle school this year, they have tested the program with poor role modeling and a refusal to participate in certain activities – and yet, they choose to show up without fail each week. We’ve had remarkable attendance. We know that they are drawn to RI Fiddle Project, the people in it, and to making music. But we may need to try something new to give our students challenges that are particularly well matched to their own age and ability groups.
Over the summer, the staff would develop a new group class structure to better serve the diverse of needs and learning methods of our students. Here is one possible answer: a new group class structure where we hold two smaller-group sessions each week. Students would be required to attend the group class on the opposite day of their lessons, so that each student would not only have two experiences each week, but those experiences would be on two separate days. The groups would be divided up according to age and experience, and at our monthly music and dance events, students would come together to play in a larger group setting.
Ariana's proposal (excerpt)
As I draw near to the end of my Fellowship, I have looked for the right circumstances to pursue my project. Many key pieces have begun to fall into place for an educational project in Worcester that would mirror CMW’s values. I have accepted a position as Education Director for the Worcester Chamber Music Society; the group is a robust performance ensemble who wish to deepen their educational programming. My vision is to make that work the seed of a bigger project that would enrich the lives of Worcester youth through free music lessons and meaningful mentorship.
Worcester’s poverty rate is nearly twice the state average, and approaches 50% in the downtown area. A music project could offer a wealth of opportunities to communities in need, including the downtown and Main South neighborhoods, whose youth have little access to creative arts. School shows from the Chamber Society already reach hundreds of children. I envision as the ideal complement a free program that offers lessons in a downtown space. Alongside the teaching artists are college musicians who commit to year-long relationships with youth, and often stay for multiple years. The college mentors are part of a class that offers support, training, and college credit. They deepen the connection between college and city and glimpse a bigger mission to guide their musical careers.
The budding project in Worcester is long-term and seeks to nurture many aspects of its students’ lives, and as such its intended outcomes are multifaceted. Youth will discover a creative outlet that hones life skills like discipline, cooperation, imagination, and leadership. Mentors will be encouraged to forge strong relationships with students that strengthen colleges’ ties to the community.
Congratulations to Rachel and Ariana, and we look forward to hearing back from them about their projects at this time next year!
-Heath Marlow, Managing Director