Sebastian Ruth is a violist, violinist, and music educator who has turned a string quartet and a storefront space into a thriving and enriching force in the lives of urban youth and their families in Providence, Rhode Island. After graduating from Brown University in 1997, he founded Community MusicWorks, a nonprofit organization based in Providence’s West End that offers frequent performances and free musical instruction led by its house ensemble, the Providence String Quartet. In contrast to many arts outreach programs, Ruth and his fellow quartet members have taken up residence within the inner-city community they serve, in keeping with their vision of music as a nurturing neighborhood necessity similar to a library, a church, or a health clinic. Equally focused on expanding their repertoire and their development as practicing artists, quartet members perform throughout the region and open their rehearsals to the community. Ruth’s group provides all students—from elementary to high school—with an instrument on long-term loan, close mentoring relationships with instructors, and exposure to an expansive variety of music through workshops and field trips. In addition to these core activities, Ruth has broadened his original scope to include artists-in-residence from other musical disciplines, commissioning new works with themes that resonate powerfully with diverse, urban residents, and fellowships for conservatory-trained instrumentalists interested in embarking on nontraditional musical careers. As organizations inspired by Community MusicWorks take root in New Haven and Boston, Ruth is creating rewarding musical experiences for often-forgotten populations and forging a new, multifaceted role beyond the concert hall for the twenty-first-century musician.
Sebastian Ruth received a B.A. (1997) from Brown University. The artistic director of Community MusicWorks since its founding in 1997, he is also a founding member of the Providence String Quartet and a former member of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, the Ocean State Chamber Orchestra, and the Wild Ginger Philharmonic.