Date March 12, 2024
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Photos: Brown University Orchestra and kids from Community MusicWorks team up for concert

Providence K-12 students took to the stage at Brown’s new Lindemann Performing Arts Center for a collaborative performance of the composition “Anthem.”

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Young performers from a nonprofit music school in Providence had the opportunity to team up with members of the Brown University Orchestra for a multi-day collaboration that culminated in a concert at Brown’s new Lindemann Performing Arts Center.

The collaboration welcomed approximately 50 K-12 students from Community MusicWorks in early March. At the Lindemann, they rehearsed and performed with Brown student musicians under the direction of Mark Seto, conductor of the Brown University Orchestra and a senior lecturer in music. The younger kids sang, while the older students played string instruments.

“It was such a treat to collaborate with Community MusicWorks on this performance and a great learning experience for both the Brown and Community MusicWorks students,” Seto said.

While the University and Community MusicWorks have collaborated informally for years, the opening of the Lindemann Performing Arts Center and its expansive and adaptable spaces enabled musicians from the University and the local students to perform on stage together.

“With this new state-of-the-art performance space, we are now in a great position to strengthen the relationship between our organizations,” Seto said.

The ensemble performed Jessie Montgomery’s “Anthem,” a composition commissioned in 2008 by Community MusicWorks after Barack Obama was elected the country’s first Black president. Montgomery, a Grammy Award-winning composer, was a Community MusicWorks resident musician at the time, and the lyrics were written by Kirby Vasquez, then a Community MusicWorks cello student.

“Anthem” combines “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the Black national anthem. The fusion of two of the nation’s significant anthems represents, according to Vasquez, “a whole step for change.” In 2010, Community MusicWorks students and teachers performed “Anthem” at multiple locations in Washington, D.C., including the building site of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

The concert at Brown also featured two guest soloists: New York Philharmonic Principal Clarinetist Anthony McGill, and narrator Joe Wilson Jr., a longtime company member of Trinity Rep in Providence who is now the director of art, culture and tourism for the City of Providence.

Supported by start-up funding from Brown’s Swearer Center, Brown graduate Sebastian Ruth founded Community MusicWorks in 1997 to “create cohesive urban community through music education and performance.” The organization’s after-school programming serves families living in Providence’s West End, South Side, Elmwood and Olneyville neighborhoods.