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

Vanessa Centeno,

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


Vanessa Centeno: I'm 18 years old. I've been in CMW—and I'm counting this year, even though I graduated last year—for seven years. I play the violin. I'm a freshman at Rhode Island College, and I live in Providence.

FV: How did you get involved in CMW?


VC: My mom must have signed me up. Maybe through City Arts, I think it was. I really don't remember much, it was so long ago! All I remember is Marconi and Elizabeth, and Ruth. The four of us were always together, from the beginning.

FV: When did you realize CMW was important to you?


VC: Actually, I really realized it after I graduated. Because it's been so weird not being around the same people this year, not having them for support. I used to come in and say, “Oh my God, I did this wrong,” and they used to be like, “Don't worry, you can do it again,” or they'd help me out on something.

FV: How has CMW changed your life? When you were in high school, and also now that you're in college.


VC: I have to say, it's given me more leadership and social skills. It's given me a way to get around and interact with people that I normally wouldn't get around with. In Phase II, I was one of the oldest ones because I was here when it started. So it was a way to help out the little kids, and mentor them. Because of all that, I want to become a publicist. And you know, becoming school president, and getting involved with different things, I think it has to do everything with CMW.

FV: Did you ever think of quitting?

VC: Many, many times. Once, Sebastian's dad actually stopped me from quitting. Sebastian's dad was at the end-of-the-year concert, and maybe he had heard from Sebastian that I was thinking about quitting, and he said to me, “You know, Sebastian wanted to quit once.” And then he told me I really shouldn't quit. I was surprised to hear that, because Sebastian is so dedicated. And after that, my mom was like, “You're not quitting.” And I'm like, “Fine, I won't quit.”

FV: Who do you think was your most important relationship in CMW?


VC: Sebastian. He's been my teacher since I started. He was always there, whenever I needed something. I can talk to him about anything, and I don't feel uncomfortable about it at all. If I have a problem, he's the first one to give me advice on it. When it came to college, he was the first one on me. “Do you have your applications done?” You know, my mom hasn't been through the whole school and applications things, and how to deal with high school and stuff like that. So it's very different. I used to go to him a lot and talk to him. He's either like my dad or my big brother. One of those two.

FV: Now we're going to get the juicy stuff. What was your most embarrassing moment in CMW?


VC: I don't remember. Oh! When we had to do the poem. We had to write a poem, that's actually now in the program book. The freedom poem. It was in the news and everything. I had to say the first verse of one of the stanzas, and the Spanish came out. I can't remember what the word was, but instead of me saying it in English, I said it in the Spanish accent. And because of that, I stumbled, and forgot a couple of the words. That was my most embarrassing moment.

FV: What about your most proudest moment?


CV: When I played in front of everybody at graduation. The Two Grenadiers. My high school graduation. That was definitely my proudest moment.

FV: What was your best musical moment?


VC: Rhode Island Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. That was my most memorable, wonderful musical moment, because when we first got in there, we had no idea what everyone else was playing, because we didn't know how to read music. It was me, Elizabeth, and Tae. So we're in there with a bunch of little kids younger than us, they're like five years old. And they're like, going away at the music, and we're just staring at it, like, “What is this?” We couldn't understand it at all. And you could see some of the parents noticed it, and they were kind of laughing. But because of that, we persevered, and we actually learned how to read music. We taught ourselves. Well, I'm not going to say that the teachers didn't help, but I was looking through my music, and every note had something written on it because we had to learn how to do it. And learning that music, and then performing in such a big group, that was one of the best moments for me.

FV: You were in Phase II when it first started. How was it different back then ?

VC: It was different because I don't think we actually knew what we were doing. We would come in, watch movies, and hang out. Don't get me wrong, it was a lot of fun, but I think it's even better now. I think it's grown up to be just not separating the younger kids from the older kids, but trying to have the older kids be mentors for the younger kids. To help them out, help them transition into being musicians and artists. Because basically the little kids look up to the Phase II kids. They're like, “Alright, when I get older I'm going to be in this group, so I have to prepare myself to be part of Phase II, to be able to take a leadership role and work out stuff. Not just by myself, but with other people.”

FV: How would your life be different without CMW?


VC: I don't think I'd be me. I don't think I'd be kooky enough. I don't know, I can't even think about it. It's hard to think about not having CMW around.

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