Monday, December 28, 2009

Valley Breeze

If you can, pick up a Pawtucket copy of The Valley Breeze, week of December 22-29.
A color photo of our Fiddling Celebration is on the front page, with five more great photos on page 14! Scans to follow...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My favorite part

of yesterday's Fiddling Celebration was the moment at 1:30 PM when I was together with all the fiddlers for our rehearsal, standing in a circle with our instruments in "rest position". We went around the circle saying our names and our favorite bow games. Even though many of the fiddlers had never met, they had a lot in common through this shared body of knowledge.

I look forward to a time when students' experience of the fiddling community can start here, at the community center, and extend as far out geographically as there are fiddlers and dances.

We were lucky enough to have some experienced photographers doing their thing yesterday, so in a few days we'll be able to share what they captured.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

We're still on

Yes, there's plenty of snow on the way, but we're going to get in as much of our Fiddling Celebration as possible before that happens! See you at 3!

Live Pawtucket

Here's all the info for today on the Live Pawtucket blog:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Exciting News

Rachel has been accepted into the 2010 Nonprofit Emerging Leaders Mentor Program at the Rhode Island Foundation...

I'll be working closely with a mentor in the Rhode Island nonprofit sector as well as meeting regularly with a peer group of mentees and attending workshops. I'm really excited about this opportunity, both personally, and for the ways Fiddle & Dance Project and Community MusicWorks may both benefit from what I learn.

Friday, December 11, 2009

First fiddling celebration coming up!

Saturday, December 19th at 3 PM will when Fiddle & Dance Project's first student performances begin.
The fiddling & dance celebration begins with student performances of Cluck Old Hen, Bile dem Cabbage Down, Cripple Creek & more...then it'll be time for audience participation.
Around 3:45, the event will evolve into a Community Dance and around 4:30, conclude with a potluck! Hope you can join us.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"12 more times!"

Here's a short clip from the fourth annual Fiddle Hell (that's really what it's called!), a free gathering put on by fiddler Dave Reiner in Westford, Mass a few weekends ago. You may ask, "why do they call it that?" Well, if I had stayed for more than a few hours, I think I would have had a better sense of it: just fiddlers, lots of rooms going simultaneously...that's a lot of E strings! But it was great for the time I was there. Dave Reiner led a really thoughtful, descriptive workshop on back-up playing, and when I first walked in, David Kaynor was leading everyone in Soldier's Joy, as you hear in this video. The only reason he's shouting "3 more times" instead of "12 more times" at this moment is that he only has 3 minutes left of workshop time! David has been one of my fiddle mentors since I met him in 2002 and I've realized that a lot of what I love about fiddling comes from his attitude: fiddlers of any experience level can have fun (if they allow themselves to) by playing the same old tune at least 12 more times together over the course of many years.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Where the fiddles have come from...

This is Dennis:

His violin making, repairing, selling & renting shop is McCarten Violins, on the first floor of Hope Artiste Village, just down the road from where our fiddle lessons take place in Pawtucket! His shop is right by where the Wintertime Farmer's Market takes place. Dennis has donated fiddles that have come his way as well as the labor needed to fix them up and make the violins playable for our students.

This is Emily:

She is the Rental Workshop Manager at Johnson String Instrument (which has shops in Newton & Waltham, MA). Johnson String is where my own full-sized violin came from back in 1996. I was lucky enough to meet Emily through Community MusicWorks -- which has been a recipient of Johnson String donations for a number of years.

Thank you to Dennis & McCarten Violins and thank you to Emily & Johnson String Instrument for helping to make the start of the Fiddle & Dance Project possible.

Friday, November 20, 2009


I'm immersed in Community MusicWorks'
Institute for Musicianship and Public Service this weekend!
We're sharing ideas, successes, & challenges in doing the work that we do. Institute participants include leaders at:
Music Haven
Boston Public Quartet
& more...
We'll be talking together about many aspects of our work, but also doing playing & performing together as well as what's most important: eating together!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Check it out...

I'm in the early phases of developing

Fiddle & Dance Project's new website!

It's got info about the program, the people, flickr photos, video & more.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Community Dance a Success!

It was a beautiful, warm November day, during which over 60 people joined us inside the Carriage House for Fiddle & Dance Project's first ever community dance!

It was a warm, welcoming environment for first-timers. We had 5 squares going at one point (that's 40 dancers), plus lots of smiling people looking on from the side. Less than 10 of the people there had ever attended a contra dance before. Families had heard about the dance through the Fiddle & Dance Project, the Carriage House and Friday Night Live, Community MusicWorks, and the Rehoboth Jammers.

Andy Davis - who has literally written the books on leading dances like this (along with the Amidons & Mary Cay Brass as a part of New England Dancing Masters) - led us through an afternoon which got us moving in circles, spirals, squares, sicillian circles, and scattered about the room during "Sasha":

Can't wait 'till we can do it again!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

We interrupt this count-down to Community Dance (3 more days!) to bring you...

7 days of practice!

This week, Ashley brought this colorful, completely filled in practice chart to her lesson -- congrats on a job well done!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fiddle AND Dance!

Yes, tonight we had our first Dance event of the Fiddle & Dance Project!
Thank you to Ronzio's & Olly's of Pawtucket for the pizzas.
Kati & Chris were on the tunes and Rachel & Carole led the dances.
Here we are with a broom (how appropriate for Halloween) dancing the "Paddle dance" taught by Carole.

Everyone was tired out but smiling afterwards -- looking forward to the big dance on November 8th!

Monday, October 26, 2009

"If things never descend into chaos while you're teaching kids to dance, then you're not taking enough risks!"

So says Peter Amidon, who, along with Mary Alice Amidon, led one of their incredible workshops for at least 150 teachers on Saturday in Lexington, MA. Peter's point was that dancing is supposed to be fun and if things are too rigid while you're teaching, neither you nor the dancers will likely be having much fun. At the same time, they both of have a magical way of teaching that's both fun and easy to follow. And they know that the best way to learn how to teach a dance is by first doing the dance!

Follow that with the magic of Common Fence in Tiverton, RI. Common Fence is organizing free drumming workshops for youth in Newport County. Kinobe (pronounced Chee-noh-bay) was a special presenter and performed an amazing concert Saturday night with his band, Soul Beat Africa, traveling from Uganda.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

a day in the life...

Here's what I did last Wednesday (true story!):

I'm up early driving from Pawtucket, RI to Waltham, MA (but not early enough to avoid all traffic) to meet Emily at Johnson Strings. I'm picking up two 3/4 violin donations and lots of bows -- enough to outfit all of the violins coming our way from local maker, Dennis McCarten.

Then it's off to the Community MusicWorks office (the incubator - it's always warm in there), where Jesse shows me the tool I'll use to put the chin rests onto the two 3/4 instruments. I make copies of tickets for the upcoming dance, cut them up with the paper cutter, and I'm in the car again...

To Baldwin Elementary just a mile from where I teach in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Pawtucket, which is where I meet Sarah, their music teacher. She's agreed to share Fiddle & Dance sign-up information with her students and is excited about the tickets to the dance.

Speaking of the dance, my next stop is the Carriage House, our hosts! I share more of the tickets with Dorothy, and Aaron helps orient me to the sound system.

Lunch time! Not so coincidentally, I'm close enough to stop in at the Sandwich Hut and have a delicious blondie for dessert.

After lunch, there's enough time to rosin up those bows, put them in their cases, and get ready for today's fiddle lessons later in the afternoon!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Come dance with us!

You're invited to the Fiddle & Dance Project's first community dance:
Sunday, November 8th, 3-5 PM
at the Carriage House, 9 Duncan Ave., off N. Main St in Providence across from Action Auto Parts.

Andy Davis will be calling, traveling all the way from Burlington, VT to be here! This dance is especially suited to folks at any age who have never tried contra dancing before.

Musicians include Michelle Kaminsky, Sakiko Mori, myself, and more! Hope to see you there.

Monday, October 12, 2009

violins going home & a giant ox dance!

Fiddles started making their way to new homes last week (including one lucky student with a purple violin!)

Last night I went to Rehoboth, MA to check out what was an incredible gathering of new dancers. The Youth Mandolin Orchestra of the North Rhine had flown in from Germany the night before and was visiting the Providence Mandolin Orchestra -- both those groups visited the Rehoboth Jammers: a group of musicians, callers and dancers who get together to play music every week and dance to it every month. This was their largest gathering that I know of. The best part was how willing all of these new dancers were to try something as silly as the Ox dance. Bob leads in a fun and straight-forward way -- there's no reason not to follow him!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Holding "violin" boxes

Our first fiddle lessons over the past week have been packed: holding violin cereal boxes, practicing bow holds on over-sized pencils, learning to allemande & do-si-do, and reading basic rhythms.

Families enrolled live in Pawtucket, Central Falls & North Providence and our students range in age from 7 to 16. Everyone has a different reason for being there, but all have one thing in common: can't wait to hold the real fiddles!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Youth Dance Weekend

Surrounded by fall folliage in Plymouth, VT this weekend, I danced and played at Youth Dance Weekend.

It was a whirlwind of movement to tunes new and old (the "techno contra" began at 1 am), and a good time to sit and talk with people about who is dancing to and playing this music...and why?

Contra dancing seems to be moving healthily toward a strong, inter-generational future (with weekends like this, who could deny that?). In other ways, contra dance, while already a mish-mosh of many traditions, has had trouble sharing the dance and music with people diverse in race and class -- not just in age.

Yes, I believe that these traditions are precious in and of themselves (as beautiful, historic music & movements), but More Importantly, I believe that these traditions are precious because of what they do for us as people, as groups, as communities. Contra dance visibly brings people together: to move together, make eye contact, smile at each other, trust one another.
This stuff is worth making accessible. It's worth sharing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Video: Dancing in the Garden

Check out 1:35 into the video and you'll hear Elzic's Farewell and see the dancing for yourself!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Community Partners

Fiddle & Dance Project will be working closely with two organizations throughout this year:

1. Community MusicWorks (CMW) in Providence, RI, will incubate this project, offering physical and mentoring support in the office and acting as a fiscal agent. Fiddle & Dance Project is both informed and inspired by Rachel's two-year immersion in CMW's culture and organization through the Fellowship Program and shares CMW's philosophy of music and social change.

2. Woodlawn Community Development Corporation, or Woodlawn CDC, "strives to improve the economic and social well-being of the Woodlawn Community, with an emphasis on low-income residents (%77), by empowering them through education, advocacy and innovation." Woodlawn CDC will host Fiddle & Dance Project's weekly lessons this year as well as some special events.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Community MusicWorks' Fiddle Lab Performance at Slater Mill

Community MusicWorks Fiddle Lab players performed tunes at the Labor & Ethnic Heritage Festival at Slater Mill in Pawtucket on Sunday, generating buzz both about their playing and about the Fiddle & Dance Project.
This festival was part of the larger Pawtucket Arts Festival, which continues over the next few weeks. Tunes we played included Mairi's Wedding, Have you been to Ireland, Roddy McCorley, Angeline the Baker & All the Way to Galway. Thanks to Michelle Kaminsky & Adrienne Taylor for joining in the music making!

Lots of festival attendees joined our email list to find out more about upcoming special events and dances. You can receive updates, too, by emailing

Saturday, August 22, 2009

dancing in the garden

Today there were two sign-up events for the Fiddle & Dance Project: one in Central Falls at the Back-to-school celebration and one in the Pawtucket community garden space on Barton & Nickerson Streets. Here we are dancing the Foula Reel to the live tunes of Kati and Chris on fiddle and guitar. Thanks all for a great afternoon!

Monday, August 17, 2009

what, how & why

Here’s What the Fiddle & Dance Project is about:

-empowering kids, parents, grandparents as learners, teachers & performers

-cultivating leadership among youth and adults in a diverse, under-served community

-strengthening ties within and across peer groups in the community

Here’s How:

-exploring, trying, learning, practicing & sharing fiddle tunes as individuals and as a group

-dancing to this music (eventually, to each other making this music) across generational lines

Here’s Why fiddling & dance:

-these tunes are Old, yet each player has the potential to breathe new life into them—to reinvent them and own them.

-this music is participatory, group-oriented and often purposeful (to get people on their feet, dancing!)

-community dance is about looking other people in the eye, smiling, & then moving together

-the process takes time, just as the goals do—just as building relationships do. Learning fiddling takes focus, commitment & overcoming frustrations—but the results are invaluable

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Recruitment Events

Fiddle & Dance Project will have a sign-up table with information (and in some cases, music) at the following events:

August 22nd, 4-6 PM, PCDC Garden Celebration, corner of Barton & Nickerson Streets, Pawtucket, RI (with community dancing and live music from 5-5:30 PM)

August 30th, 12-5 PM, Labor & Ethnic Heritage Festival, Slater Mill, Pawtucket, RI
(with performances by Rachel and Community MusicWorks Fiddle Lab students from 12-12:30 PM)