The Newport String Project Builds Community Through Classical Music

Through youth mentoring and more, programming makes chamber music more accessible


An acclaimed classical quartet is making waves on Aquidneck Island – sound waves, that is. The Newport String Project is a chamber music group and youth mentoring program that unites musicians and audiences around classical music. The non-profit recently received a grant to support its programming, which includes regular performances and free music lessons for Newport youth. “This is the second Challenge America Grant that we’ve received through the National Endowment for the Arts,” says violinist, co-founder, and artistic director Ealaín McMullin. “It’s a really exciting moment for the organization. It recognizes our goal of building community through chamber music.”

“The programs included in the grant combine chamber music, teaching, and community building,” says McMullin. “The intention is to build a sense of belonging and community among people of different backgrounds, bringing them together to enjoy inspiring musical experiences.”

The resident quartet includes violinists McMullin and Kenneth Trotter, violist Santiago Vazquez-Loredo, and cellist Jacob MacKay. Regular concerts feature popular chamber music, pieces by lesser-known or forgotten composers, and underrepresented or new voices, plus contemporary sounds, including occasional premieres. In addition to holding concerts, the ensemble oversees youth programming in Newport and neighboring communities. Currently, over 40 students attend lessons in violin, cello, and viola at no cost to families. Students have their own series of performances and hold open mic nights.

Classes are held at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, and nearby locations including the Florence Gray Center, St. Paul’s Church, and The Met High School. “It exemplifies one of our core values; we go to where the people are, rather than bringing people to our space,” says McMullin. “It’s a way to ensure access for everybody.” The non-profit also partners with Nourish RI, where the quartet performs at meal sites across Newport, supporting those affected by food or employment insecurity. “It’s a really powerful opportunity for the musicians to connect with a group of people who might experience barriers going to a concert because of transport, or because of ticket prices, that sort of thing,” adds McMullin.

“One of our favorite parts of the program is our Open Mic Night series for the students,” says McMullin. “It arose out of the pandemic. They might share something that they are working on with their teacher or share a performance on a different instrument. We even have kids writing their own music and sharing dances – all kinds of creative practices. I think supporting them to express themselves and use their experience with us as a vehicle to explore their creativity and engage with the world through the arts – that’s an important part of what we are doing.”

The Newport County Concert Series regularly features two weekend performances, one in Newport, and a second in a neighboring community. “It’s a good way for us to broaden our reach,” says McMullin. Up next, the Newport County Concert Series #4 presents a program of Heise, Ravaei, and Grieg at Colony House on April 27 and the United Congregational Church in Little Compton on April 28. Also coming up is their annual gala, Resounding 2024, on June 2 at the International Yacht Restoration School. Learn more at



No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here