10 Years... 10 Stories

An interview project celebrating the tenth anniversary of Community MusicWorks.

Interviews conducted by:

Fidelia Vasquez,
Community MusicWorks cellist & board member
and Chloë Kline, Community MusicWorks Fellow

Special thanks to all of our interviewees for sharing their time and their stories, to Liz Hollander for the inspiration to start this project and brainstorming help, and to Liz Cox for her transcription heroics.

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Tenth Year Violin

10 Years... 10 Stories

    Josh Rodriguez

    Vanessa Centeno

    Sara Stalnaker

    Karen Romer

    Zeeny & Patrice Wolfe

    Tae Ortiz

    Itza Serrano

    Sebastian Ruth

    Carolina Jimenez

    Jesse Holstein

Josh Rodriguez,

                                                             Photo by Mary Beth Meehan

Fidelia Vasquez: Josh, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?


Josh Rodriguez: Well, I've been playing the viola for 5 and a half years. I'm 14, about to be 15. And I like classical music. It's something my friends sometimes insult me about, but I think it's great, and all my teachers and all my siblings think it's great. And actually most my friends do, too, except a couple. Some of them think playing an instrument is girlish. But I like it.

FV: How did you get involved in Community MusicWorks?


JR: My cousin, Vanessa Centeno was a student here from the beginning. I saw what she did, and then I liked it a lot, and then my mom finally said, “Well, let's go sign up,” and I came to the office and I met Jesse Holstein. Jesse asked me what instrument I wanted to play, and I told him violin. And he said, “You know, there's a cooler instrument.” And I asked, “What is it?” And he told me that it was the viola, and not a lot of people play it. And I said, “Hey, why not give it a shot.”

FV: How do you think CMW has changed your life?

JR: It's changed my life a lot. It sometimes gets in the way of the other things that I do, but it keeps me away from the streets and all the bad things that happen there, things I wouldn't want to be involved with. Without CMW, I'd just probably be outside in the street being a bad kid. Maybe even selling drugs and doing other things around my neighborhood that I see other kids doing, that my friends do. It's just not what I would want.

FV: Has there ever been a time you wanted to quit playing the viola?

JR: Yes. But my sister and Jesse both talked me out of it. My sister told me about all the good things that come out of this. She was like, “This could really help you out with school,” and I knew she was right. Ever since I joined CMW, my grades have increased, and they always said playing an instrument helps you out with that kind of stuff! And Jesse also talked to me. I appreciate what Jesse said. He said that I shouldn't quit because I've grown so much from playing viola, and that I've gotten so good that he wouldn't want to see me quit, and it would make him feel as if he failed.

FV: Do you remember why you wanted to quit?


JR: I wanted to quit because it was taking a lot of my time, and I thought, “Hey, why can't I be outside with my friends, playing games, and tag,” you know. I was young. I just thought about wanting to go outside, and the way I could do that was to quit. It wasn't the right choice, though, and I realized it.

FV: Do you have a favorite workshop that you've been to over the years?


JR: Mine would have to be the one with Rob Bethel. First of all, Rob is just a cool guy. When I'm with Rob, I don't feel nervous, you know? Even if I was in front of a completely different group of people, I wouldn't feel nervous. And also, the improvisation is so fun. I can let my mind speak. The way he says things like, “There's no wrong notes,” makes me feel good. I can just let my mind play what I want to play. I can let my instrument show the way I'm feeling.

FV: You seem like a pretty relaxed performer. Do you get nervous when you play?


JR: All the time. I'm nervous right now! I remember all my Performance Parties I would get nervous, but Jessie Montgomery, when she was around, she would tell me to just imagine them in their pajamas or something. I tried that, and it worked.

FV: How has Phase II changed over the years?


JR: Well, for one thing there's a lot more practices. And now we have the quartets, which are cool. Also, the discussions have changed a lot. We talk a lot more than before, and we talk about different subjects. I learned about Plato's Cave during the discussions, and about other things that affect the universe. Like the Darfur genocide, and Hurricane Katrina. I didn't know a lot of stuff about Hurricane Katrina until we had that discussion last year. Also, Phase II makes us more part of the community. It makes us involved with people, like for example we got involved with the soup kitchens. We helped them out, we played for them, which was really fun, and it also shows a lot of people that we actually care for the community and we'd like things to change.

FV: What's your proudest moment at CMW?


JR: My proudest moment is when I come to my lessons and I come with my practice sheet filled out. It makes Jesse happy. Also, there are a lot of family moments. Playing the viola makes my siblings be more proud of me. My mom is like, “Oh I'm so proud of my son, he plays viola,” and she'll start hugging me, and the rest of my siblings are like, “Mom, please!” I remember when my family all came over on Christmas, I played for my family, and a couple of them started crying. And the rest of them were really proud. It made me feel good.

FV: How do you think you have changed as a person in CMW?


JR: I have changed. When I first joined, I was young and foolish. I would just act like a little kid. Over the years, this has made me act more mature. I notice I don't talk as much as I used to. I'll be the quiet one in the whole bunch.

FV: If you knew a younger kid who was thinking about quitting, what would you tell him?


JR: I'd tell him to look at me, you know? I'm cool. Just kidding! I'd just tell him just to think about it, you know? Some things are worth quitting for, and some things are not. A lot of things are not worth quitting for. Because this could take you really far. Not a lot of people know how to play instruments. You can really get a lot from this program.

FV: As you get older, and people start looking at you as a role model, how does that make you feel?


JR: It makes me feel great, you know? People looking up to me will make me work a lot harder. I don't want them to see me slacking or anything. It makes me feel proud.

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