Gather: Curating Community Through MusicProvidence, RI
Community MusicWorks’ Gather is a monthly series of curated experiences combining exceptional musical performances with neighborhood-building activities, with a goal of drawing resources, people, and ideas to the economically-challenged West End of Providence. Gather grows out of Community MusicWorks’ fifteen-year history of music education, performance, and community-building by resident musicians based in its storefront office and rehearsal space.
ArtPlace spoke with Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director of Community MusicWorks about the project.
AP: What do you have to do really (really) well to achieve success with your initiative?
We have to make CMW visible in our community in a whole new way. Even after working in the community for 15 years, with a highly engaged base of students, families, and concert-goers, we still see room to build a broader neighborhood-wide understanding of what CMW is and what it does. We have to do a good job marketing our concerts and being thoughtful about how to create diverse events where everyone feels they belong.
AP: How do you expect the community to change as a result?
One of the phenomena we encounter in our work is that when we talk about what the community needs, we may be talking about needs people don’t yet know they have. By that I mean, do we see young urban kids standing on the street corners clamoring for classical music instruction? Do we get requests from adults in the neighborhood that they need more opportunities to get to know people from backgrounds other than their own? Do we hear people talking about how they need – in this century, in this decade – more opportunities to gather together and have profound experiences of community that are not mediated by computers, but are actually extraordinary moments of beauty? The answer is that we don’t get those requests.
But at CMW, we see all of the above as needs that are unmet and unanticipated. I’ve been thinking recently about Steve Jobs and the iPhone. (This line of inquiry came for me from the National Arts Strategies’ CEO Program that I’m part of.) Were people clamoring for a cell phone-sized computer to carry with them in their pockets that could hold all their music, browse the web, take pictures, and do a million other things? No, not until Apple introduced the iPhone. It’s a great example of an unmet and unanticipated need.
So, with this project, the unmet and unanticipated need is for people to gather in unusual experiences of community, at community centers and in storefronts, in neighbors’ homes and in public spaces to not only hear music, but to form community in new and unusual ways. We expect the community to change in the bonds people form, in the perceptions people have, both of the place they live and its inherent worth and of people from other parts of the city and the commonalities they might have with them.
Additionally, we are looking forward to a year of building a strong base of support among Latinos in Providence for a new Violin Concerto by young Venezuelan composer Gonzalo Grau. If the Gather project is a success, the concerts for the Grau Concerto will be filled with local Latino leaders, and the events will have a feeling of part classical music concert and part street festival.