Community Musicworks

Project 1: 2008-09: An Evaluation of Long-Term Impact on Participants

Consultants: Dennie Palmer Wolf, Steven Holochwost

Community MusicWorks (CMW) is a resident string quartet, music learning center, and set of associated music programs in Providence, RI. Over a two year period, Dennie Palmer Wolf and Steven Holochwost conducted an intensive, participatory evaluation designed to examine the effects of long-term participation on the young people who become involved with CMW. The evaluation was an opportunity to develop a set of innovative tools for capturing a wider-than-usual set of effects. These tools included:

  • Analyses of students enrollment and persistence in the program
  • Lesson-embedded interviews between teachers and students about growth and challenges
  • Strategies for caregivers to map the high’s and low’s in their children’s musical learning
  • Social network diagrams that document how being a part of CMW has connected students to a wider world in and beyond the Providence community.
The findings describe the multiple ways in which musical participation may affect young people’s development in ways that go beyond those typically measured: for example, socio-emotional strengths such as persistence across difficulty, and the building cultural and social capital.

Project 2: 2015-16: An Evaluation of Extending Our Reach Initiative

Consultants: Dennie Palmer Wolf and Rachel Panitch

In a subsequent project WolfBrown documented and evaluated Community MusicWorks’ Extending Our Reach Initiative, funded by the Mellon Foundation. That initiative featured a two-year fellowship for 20 diverse young classical musicians committed to designing and implementing programs that serve youth, families, and neighborhoods. The initiative included convenings, workshops, and conferences (Institute for Music and Public Service) involving 133 additional musicians from across the U.S. and Canada.

The evaluation focused on three major issues: 1) documenting the impact of the Fellowship; 2) exploring how such fellowship programs could contribute to diversifying the field of classical music and 3) how to sustain a vigorous conversation about how a diverse corps of classical musicians might help to build more cohesive urban communities. The evaluation included a review of similar programs, a review of CMW’s own documents and planning, interviews with participants, and discussions with CMW staff. The final report combines multiple examples of how complex, qualitative data can be mined for programmatic insights and impacts including time-diaries revealing how socially-engaged musicians use their time and talents diagrams showing how the influence of the Fellowship has spread, as well as data showing how the combination of artistry, teaching, and socially-engaged practice allows young musicians to persist as community activists.