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

Zeeny Wolfe,

Patrice Wolfe,


                                                                Photo by Mary Beth Meehan

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


ZW: My name is Zeeny, and I just turned ten years old. Can I tell you about my culture? I'm one-quarter Bahamian, one-quarter African, and one-half white.

FV: How and when did you get involved in CMW?


ZW: I'm starting my third year. I think my mom just put me on the waiting list. I had played violin a little bit when I was four, so I kind of remembered it from long ago. But when I did violin then, I didn't really want to play. It was that four-year-old stuff, “I don't want to do it.” As I got older, I wished I had kept playing.

Patrice Wolfe: She even said to me, “I wish I'd never quit.” She was six or seven years old at the time. We had moved to this neighborhood in 2000, so we always used to walk by the office, and I saw the violins in the window. So one day we came in, and I put her on the list, and every so often, we'd get one of those postcards, saying, “You're 72nd on the waiting list.” And I would ask Zeeny, “Are you still interested?” And she would always say yes. Finally, when she was seven and half, they called and said they had space. It was a summer day. We turned off supper and came right over!

FV: Who do you have the most important relationship with in CMW?


ZW: Probably with my teacher, Jesse. He's been the one that stayed with me longest. Also, I feed his cats when he's away. In the summer, I feed his cats like every other week. He's really funny: he cuts his hair short in the wintertime, and grows it long in the summertime!

PW: Plus, he's come over to our house and seen your whole menagerie, right? The cat, the snake, the bird, the lizard… There was even the night he came over and gave you a make up lesson in your pajamas, remember? Jesse always goes above and beyond. We gave him a spaghetti dinner for that lesson. And every year he has a birthday breakfast with us.

FV: What's your funniest memory of CMW?


ZW: Well, I have lessons with Andrew. We've always had lessons together. And sometimes in lessons Jesse says, “OK, who wants to play this one?” And I always step back, and then Jesse says, “Well, Andrew, it looks like you've been volunteered.” It's really funny.

FV: What's your most embarrassing moment in CMW?


ZW: Usually when I mess up during a concert. Like this last performance party, I messed up a little on the Waltz, when I did those triplets, I didn't do them fast enough. But then Andrew messed up a little almost at the end, so I'm like, “Okay, it's fair now.”

FV: We always have a lot of food at concert trips, and performances. What was your favorite food moment?

ZW: Well, I ate the bugs at The Bug Opera workshop. The crickets were nutty and solid, because that's what they eat. And the water beetles were salty. I liked the water beetle, but not the crickets so much. They only gave like little pieces of meat from the water beetle—I guess people really wanted it. It tasted like ocean.


FV: Patrice, how has the CMW community been important in your life, and in Zeeny's life?


PW: You know, in the beginning I really didn't understand the whole community part of it. We actually missed the first performance party in the fall, because I just didn't know it was important. At the time, our lives had been really disrupted, because we had moved to the area in the summer of 2000, and then 9/11 came along, and because I'm in the Air Force, I got called up and I was gone for a year. When I got back, I had a hard time catching up with Zeeny, and CMW become something for me to get involved with with her in an interesting way. And then at the end of the first year, at the Performance Party down at the Church of the Messiah, Sebastian got up and said something about ‘community is first in CMW for a reason.' And it was like a light going on! Also getting to know Jesse was instrumental in making us feel a part of the community. Finding out that he was our neighbor, and him being part of our lives beyond lessons. So the community has really enriched us.

FV: How was CMW different from what you expected when you first came in here?


PW: Well, it's so much more than anything I could have ever dreamed of. I had this limited perception of lessons. For example, if you want swim lessons, you go to the YMCA. You come on Mondays and Wednesdays nights, the kids all get in the water, the parents wait until the hour's up. And that's swim lessons at the Y. So I thought it was going to be the kind of thing that the kid gets involved in, but that's it. My expectations were very small. So really it far exceeded my expectations. Because like the relationship like we have with Jesse is so dear, I can't imagine him not being my neighbor, or being in our life. That's why Sebastian's words, ‘community is first in our banner for a reason,' has really come home to me in so many ways.

FV: Zeeny, I've heard you talk before about the workshop last year with Sara's father, when he was talking about the “wobble zone.” Could you talk about that, and how you use the “wobble zone?”


ZW: The wobble zone is where you're playing too fast, so you're making a lot of mistakes. He said to stay out of the wobble zone, and try to go slower, until you can pick up the pace. He made us say “clean plate club” ten times fast, and at first when we said it, we couldn't get it.

PW: Right. But if you could say “clean plate club” ten times cleanly in a row, then you know that your nervous system has mastered it. It's the same thing with taking a phrase of notes, you find a good chunk of notes, and when you can do it ten times in a row, cleanly, it means you're out of the wobble zone. You mastered it, and your neuromuscular memory is kicking in.

FV: What's your favorite, most memorable part of CMW?


PW: Wow, there are so many highlights. I mean, every year there's always something. That's tough. But I know we both enjoyed very much the opening New Bedford Symphony Orchestra, watching Jesse play this year.

ZW: I'm so glad he didn't do the wild crazy thing, where he pops out of seat and starts playing upside down.

PW: No, I don't think he would do that at the New Bedford Symphony, honey, he's the concertmaster. He was coming out of his seat a lot, though. He played so energetically, it was very exciting. It was a great concert. For some reason that sticks out. But the concerts here with all the kids are all so enriching, how can I pick one? I can't pick just one.

FV: Zeeny, how do you think CMW has changed your life?


ZW: It's changed my life because sometimes I used to have weak times when I didn't want to finish things. I was like, “Oh, I don't want to play this song. I don't want to play the scales, they're boring. And they're hard.” But it's changed my life to make me feel like I want to keep on going on to the next note, and the next song. 



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