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April Newsletter


String Stories – April 2024

April not only brings in poetry and “spring snow showers” that lead to “May flowers”, but it also celebrates Duke Ellington’s birthday (April 29), one of America’s most important musicians and composers, along with International Jazz Day (April 30). The String Department embraces these commemorations and more! Kamoinge Strings performs a set of jazz standards that include Moanin’, My Funny Valentine, and Misty. To honor Duke Ellington, the ensemble includes C-Jam Blues and In a Sentimental Mood in its repertoire. 

As we approach the end of the session and school year, our students are gearing up for their final recitals. On Saturday, April 27, students of Ernest Bisong (violin/viola),Patty Ryan (cello), and Ted Olsen (bass) are scheduled to perform. Our most accomplished string students will showcase their talents during the annual Walker|West Honors Recitals in May.


Minnesota United – Walker West

This Saturday, Minnesota United Field Club is hosting Black Excellence Night. Our students from Kamoinge Strings and the Advanced Youth Jazz Ensemble, along with our alumna Chelsea Phillip, will be performing during the Minnesota United vs. Houston Dynamo game. The performances will include pre-game music in both the Field Club and Stadium Club, renditions of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “The Star Spangled Banner,” as well as a special halftime selection. We are ready and excited to begin this fantastic celebration. This is a game you won’t want to miss!

When: April 13th vs Houston Dynamo
Where: Allianz Field, St. Paul
Ticketshttps://www.mnufc.com/


A Conversation w/ Damon Locks 

In collaboration with the Walker Art Center, Walker|West is set to conduct a dialogue featuring Damon Locks, a renowned visual artist, educator, activist, and musician/vocalist based in Chicago.

Date & Time: Friday, April 19 |  6 – 7pm 

Location: Walker West Performance Hall, 760 Selby Ave.

Seating is limited.  Please RSVP by Wednesday, April 17.


Homies In Harmony

Register now for Homies in Harmony

For children ages 0 – 6 and their caregivers.

Auntie Jayanthi introduces musical concepts and early sound exploration drawing from African American cultural experience, vital artists, and familiar folk music. Early music learners will explore various instruments, sing, and play in a nurturing environment.

For questions contact Student Services info@walkerwest.org 

When: Fridays at 10 AM | April 19 – May 17
or
When: Saturdays at 10 AM or 11 AM | April 20 – May 18


RONDO COMMUNITY MUSIC SERIES

Rondo Community Music Series Panel Discussion

Topic: The connection between Spoken word and music, rap and hip hop featuring Marie Chante’

Save Your Spot

JOIN US FOR DISCUSSIONS on Music, Culture, Community and Education. Conversations informed and influenced by the historic Rondo Community.

When: Wednesday, April 17th, 7pm

April 20th RCMS Concert featuring Marie Chanté

Rondo Community Music Series

Save Your Spot

Marie Chanté has written over 1000 poems, monologues and short stories that are being compiled into long awaited published works. Her dream job is combining music and poetry, although she enjoys teaching as well. Her collaboration and artist work resume includes: #MPLStheBAND and Houston White for The Black Excellence & The King Kunta Project, PipJazz Foundation, The Mn Spoken Word Association, Poets of The City, The Poetic Voyage, and a brief but loving run as the host for Majestic Flows Open Mic at Favor Cafe. She worked as a Teaching Artist at HECUA, in the Inequalities in America department for several years before the college closed their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She is currently Outreach & Student Services Director at Walker|West Music Academy, where she has had a working relationship, in different capacities, since 2008.

RSVP today to reserve your spot virtually on Crowdcast or Attend In-Person by registering on EventBrite!


SUMMER PROGRAM UPDATES

Women in Jazz Retreat

Join Walker West for our first ever Women in Jazz Retreat, with Twin Cities Jazz Festival performers, Claudia Medina and Ivanna Cuesta! This is a week-long comprehensive experience for women, non-binary and trans musicians to hone their performing skills, connect with other like-minded players and receive mentoring and coaching from leading women jazz faculty. Culminating in a live performance at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival! Presented as a part of Walker West’s Women in Jazz Initiative. 

When: Monday-Friday, June 17-21 (off June 19), 9:30am-4pm 
Where: Walker West Music Academy
Who: Women, non-binary and trans jazz instrumentalists and vocalists (intermediate to advanced) ages 14-27.

“Grow Through Music” Summer Camp

Our “Grow Through Music” camp offers a fun introduction to a variety of instruments for beginning students, and a way to reconnect with friends and instructors for returning students. Campers will learn in a supportive small group environment with a chance to perform during our end of camp presentation.

When: July 8 – July 26, 2024 | Monday – Friday | 8am – 12pm daily
Who: Grades K-6

Summer Music Production College Course at Hamline 

Supercharge your artistic voice this summer with hands-on Music Production instruction in this 2-week intensive college course at Hamline University! Full scholarships are available to all students.

When: July 15 – July 26, 2024 | Monday – Friday
Who: Grades 10+

Summer Jazz Intensive

The Summer Jazz Intensive program is a one week comprehensive experience for beginner to advanced youth musicians to hone their performing skills, take applied classes and interact with world-class jazz faculty at Walker|West.

When: July 29 – Aug 2, 2024 | Monday – Friday | 10am – 4pm daily
Who: Grades 6-12

Summer Jazz Violin Workshop

5-Day Intensive (For intermediate violin students)

This 5-day workshop is for violin (only) students looking to branch out from traditional classical violin or who desire to take their improvisation to the next level.

When: August 5 – 9, 2024 | Monday – Friday | 9am – 12pm daily
Who: Grades 5-12

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APRIL 2024 NEWSLETTER | STRING STORIES

Notes from the Walker|WestMusic Academy String Department

“Rose are Red, Violets are Blue… The 4th month of the Julian Calendar is National Poetry Month tis True!”

April not only ushers in poetry, and “spring snow showers” that lead to “May flowers”, but April celebrates Duke Ellington’s birthday (April 29), one of America’s most important musician-composers, and International Jazz Day (April 30). And the String Department embraces these commemorations and more!  Kamoinge Strings performs a set of jazz standards that include Moanin, My Funny Valentine, and Misty. In honor of Duke Ellington the ensemble has in its repertoire, C-Jam Blues and In a Sentimental Mood.  Someday soon, we hope to combine forces with the Advanced Jazz Ensemble to perform a series of jazz standards. 

But before we share the exciting events in April, we must recap the amazing programs from March and extend a “string-filled” congratulations to all who helped make these events memorable for the Walker|West Music Academy. 

On Thursday, March 7, the Academy hosted Donald Yacovone, PhD, Harvard University professor and author of, Teaching White Supremacy: America’s Democratic Ordeal and the Forging of Our National Identity.  This event, in partnership with NAACP – St. Paul, Embracing Minnesota’s Histories, the Eastside Freedom Library and the Minnesota History Center, was part of a weeklong series of events and activities that engaged with Dr. Yacovone’s research, and the ways American History has been taught from the early 19th century through the present.  Over 100 guests from throughout the Twin Cities community – many of whom had never been to Walker|West– were greeted by the hospitality and sense of community shown by staff and faculty. Jayanthi “Auntie Jayanthi” Rajasa, instructor for our early childhood program, “Homies in Harmony” set the tone for the evening with her stirring renditions of freedom songs at the beginning of the event.  A panel of educators, advocates and an elected Roseville School Board member moderated by Earl Ross, chair of the String Department, responded to the remarks made by Dr. Yacovone and answered questions from the audience while placing the issues within the Minnesota context. As Donald Yacovone said of the community gathering at Walker West, “[It was] the very best program I ever had the privilege of joining.  I saw a version of America at Walker|West that I had never seen before but wished for.”

Two days later, on Saturday, March 9, Kamoinge Strings made history when they performed its STRINGOCRACY Concert at Prospect Park United Methodist Church in Minneapolis. The firsts included: 

  • First time a student ensemble at Walker|West performed a full concert with intermission. It was nearly 2 hours in length with music spanning centuries and music genres.
  • First time a student ensemble performed a concert completely conceived by a department. The concert is part of a year-long project promoting the ideas of social justice and social engagement through the democratic process of music-making. Students performed a range of works that explore “call & response, improvisation, and dialectic. 
  • First time an ensemble performed as part of the Prospect Park United Methodist Church’s Music Series. The 1914 building ‘s acoustics are as warm and as welcoming as the congregation and their minister, Isiah Dennis. It was a joy to perform in this space and to work with these folks!   

Kamoinge Strings opened with the perennially popular, Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel…but with a twist. With guest student percussionist and Roseville Senior, Ataa Mensah providing African rhythms on the djembe, the audience and musicians were transported by cultural experience that merged Western and African idioms seamlessly while invoking the power of music to affect listeners and performers beyond expectations. Ataa is a member of the Advanced Jazz Ensemble and has performed with in string recitals in the past. 

The concert included sections that showcased soloists from Kamoinge that highlighted Baroque music (Telemann Concerto for 4 violins and the Vivaldi Concerto for 4 violins), Spirituals and World music, Jazz and Gospel. We’d hoped to perform a hip-hop inspired work, but we had to cut several of our songs due to the time. Plans are in the works for a second Stringocracy Concert in the fall. Look for information about this event later in the year. Until then here’s what one parent shared in a text afterward: 

“Our ancestors were right there with us honoring and appreciating how you all embodied the sounds and rhythms, using them for such a worthy cause, especially at a time like this! The call and response and improvisation is inherent in who we are as a people but I had never been conscious to it in some of the music genres until today. A real new awareness for me…Congratulations”

In April Kamoinge Strings will perform for the United Soccer team at Allianz Field in Saint Paul on Saturday, April 13. The students are excited to play a second professional sports event after their performance at the February 2 Timberwolves game at the Target Center.  

On Saturday, April 6, Jack Barrett, who has dual positions in the keyboard and string departments, performs in the Rondo Community Music Series (RCMS) Concerts. He also sat in a couple months ago on our panel discussion about the Legacy of Ahmed Jamal. Jack is one of two piano accompanists assigned to the string department.  

A wide variety of music can be heard in Jack Barrett’s compositions. Throughout his life, he has explored avenues of classical, progressive rock, metal, and jazz. All of which have left their permanent mark on his sound.  See him with his trio. Register here TODAY https://www.crowdcast.io/c/xykx2eeonuhv to hear this amazing musician-composer- arranger.  

And then on Wednesday April 17 at 7 pm, Earl Ross will moderate a panel discussion on poetry, spoken word and music with Marie Chante Flowers as part of the RCMS online discussions. He has spearheaded and moderated these discussions for the 2023/2024 season with his string department colleague, Ernest Bisong, who is the series’ coordinator. You can register here for the online event: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rondo-community-music-series-panel-discussion-tickets-717463591917?aff=oddtdtcreator&keep_tld=1 The string department is everywhere this month!

As we move toward the end of the session and school year, our students are preparing for their final recitals and for the more accomplished students the annual Walker|West Honors Recitals in May.  

This year we have two honors recitals: a Senior Recital for students in 9th – 12th grades and a Junior Recital for students in 8th grade and under. Look for more information about these recitals and the new selection process. We are excited to include string students and Kamoinge Strings in these events. 

On Saturday April 27, students from Ernest Bisong (violin/viola), Patty Ryan (cello) and Ted Olsen (bass) perform. Be sure to come out and support these talented students!  For many years, the string department has conducted in its own recitals separate from the general academy recitals.  When most folks think of strings, they often think (sadly) of the “squeak…squeak” sounds from student performers attempting Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star. Not so, at our Walker|West string recitals. Students are prepared by their instructors to do their best while having fun. And the enthusiasm and commitment of the students – and parents – are evidenced in the performance levels of the students. If you have never been to a string recital, consider attending one this season. You will come away inspired! 

Here’s to April, the “cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of dead land, mixing memory and desire stirring dull roots with spring rain.” Credit to those who know this poetic reference without looking it up! April may be the cruelest month for this poet. I / we think it just might be the “coolest” month! 

Happy April!    

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Damon Locks

In partnership with Walker Art Center, Walker|West will host a conversation with Chicago-based visual artist, educator, activist and vocalist/musician, Damon Locks.

Date & Time: Friday, April 19 | 6 – 7pm

Location: Walker West Performance Hall, 760 Selby Ave.

Seating is limited. Please RSVP by Wednesday, April 17.

Questions or More info:  tonya@walkerwest.org

Damon Locks is a Chicago-based visual artist, educator, activist and vocalist/musician. Since 2014 he has been working with the Prison and Neighborhood Arts Project at Stateville Correctional Center teaching art. He spent 4 years as an artist in residence as a part of the Museum of Contemporary Arts’ SPACE Program, introducing civically engaged art into the curriculum at Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy High School. He currently teaches Improvisation in the Sound Department at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Damon leads the Black Monument Ensemble, is a member of New Future City Radio, Exploding Star Orchestra and co-founded the band The Eternals.

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Women in Jazz Workshop

An Introduction to Jazz + Jam Session

Led by Joan Griffith

When: Saturday, March 23, 2024 1-5pm

Where: Walker West Music Academy – 760 Selby Ave, St. Paul, MN 55104

Presented by Walker West & She Rock She Rock Sponsored by Jazz88.

Join Walker West’s Women in Jazz initiative for an interactive introduction to jazz workshop, led by jazz bassist, guitarist and educator Joan Griffith! Learn about this great American artform from leading local women jazz musicians, and play together, featuring Mary Louise Knutson (piano), Beth Varela (drums), Sophia Kaufmann (bass) and Tasha Baron (trombone, flute, keys).

Women, non-binary and trans players of all ages and skill levels are welcome to participate in the workshop, and join in a Sisterhood jam session to follow. Bring your instrument, and a chart for your favorite standards. Realbooks provided. No prior jazz experience required.

All welcome to attend. RSVP here.

With questions, contact Katia Cardenas, Walker West Without Walls Program Director at katia@walkerwest.org

Save the date for:

She Rock All Ages Open Jam – April 27 2-5pm at Walker West

WIJ Workshop & Jam Session #2 – Saturday, May 18 1-5pm

Women in Jazz Retreat with Claudia Medina, June 17-21 9-4pm Learn more and sign up here

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Blog Newsletter

March Newsletter

WALKER|WEST’S WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT

RCMS Concert Featuring 
Give Get Sistet
March 16th @7 pm

Save Your Spot

The Give Get Sistet is an expandable, improvisational chorus of Black women and non-binary artists based in the Twin Cities with ties around the world. Using a cappella singing and vocal improvisation, the Give Get Sistet entertains, educates and empowers audiences and communities from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures. These artists listen deeply and sing with great generosity and daring, the music they make is unlike any other ensemble you’ve heard.
This is the second appearance for the Give Get Sistet in our series.

RSVP today to reserve your spot virtually on Crowdcast or Attend In-Person by registering on EventBrite!


Rondo Community Music Series Panel Discussion

Topic: Celebrating the Influence of Black Women in Jazz: A Tribute to Trailblazers Yolande Bruce and Debbie Duncan featuring Jayanthi Rajasa and Sarah Greer

Save Your Spot

JOIN US FOR DISCUSSIONS on Music, Culture, Community and Education. Conversations informed and influenced by the historic Rondo Community.

Wednesday, March 13 at 7:00 pm


Women in Jazz Activities: Save the Date!

Calling students women, non-binary and trans music students to sign up for Walker|West’s Intro to Jazz Workshops happening this spring, and a first ever Women in Jazz Retreat this June, led by Twin Cities Jazz Festival visiting artist, Claudia Medina! These activities are unique opportunities for students to explore improvisation, hone their performing skills, connect with other like-minded musicians from across the Twin Cities, and receive mentoring and coaching from leading local and national women jazz artists. These activities are a part of Walker|West’s Women in Jazz Initiative. Sponsored by Jazz88/KBEM.

Important Dates:

Intro to Jazz Workshops & Jam Session

When: Saturday, March 23 & Saturday, May 18 @ 1pm

Who: Women, Non-binary and Trans students of all ages. All welcome in the audience.

Women in Jazz Retreat

When: Monday, June 17 – Friday, June 21 (Off 6/19) 9:30am-4pm

Who: High School & College-age Women, Non-binary and Trans instrumentalists and vocalists.

She Rock All Ages Open Jam

When: Saturday, April 27 1-4pm at Walker West

Who: Women, Non-binary and Trans instrumentalists and vocalists of all ages. All welcome in the audience


STRING STORIES

Experience the Power of Music and Advocacy with Kamoinge Strings!

In March the String Department celebrates two significant events: National Women’s History Month and Kamoinge Strings, STRINGOCRACY Concert.

Join us for a unique musical event, “Stringocracy,”presented by Kamoinge Strings on Saturday, March 9th at 7pm in Prospect Park.

This 90-minute concert combines social activism with music, ranging from Vivaldi to Hip Hop. The group, who recently wowed us at their Minnesota Timberwolves halftime show, uses their talent to advocate for change.

While the event is free, we encourage donations, which will fund scholarships for string students. This is a chance to support aspiring musicians and contribute to our community. So, whether you’re a music lover or a social advocate, don’t miss “Stringocracy.” Your presence will have a direct impact on the future of music and advocacy.

Date: Saturday, March 9, 2024
Time: 7pm
Location: Prospect Park United Methodist Church
Admission: Free (Freewill offerings encouraged)

Don’t miss this opportunity to experience the magic of music and make a difference in the lives of young musicians. We look forward to seeing you there!

Because there are still far too few BIPOC women in Classical and Jazz music we celebrate the extraordinary talent of just a few including: Diane Monroe, Regina Carter, Tai Murray, and Tomeika Reid. Click the link below to learn more about these incredible artists! 

By celebrating their (her)stories and musical genius, we encourage our students to see themselves and their possibilities as string students and musicians.

Happy National Women’s History Month from the Walker West String Department!


PROGRAM UPDATES & OPPORTUNITIES

Masterclass with guest artist JD Allen

Join us for a free masterclass with Detroit-born, New York-based jazz saxophonist, JD Allen. Whether you’re an aspiring musician or simply curious about the intricacies of jazz, this is an event you won’t want to miss. Activities include artist demonstration, student coaching and Q&A with the audience. Feel free to bring your instrument.

Seating is limited. Please rsvp by March 14.

Date & Time: Saturday, Mar 16, 2024 10:30AM – 12:30PM

Location: High School of Recording Arts 1166 University Ave W, St Paul, MN


Register for Spring Semester

Walker|West offers lessons in Voice, Piano, Organ, Bass, Percussion, Woodwind, Brass, Guitar, Violin, Viola and Cello for students of all ages.
Registration now open until June 8th!


New Building and Construction Update

Thanks to the generous gifts of our capital campaign supporters, Walker West officially closed on our new building at 650 Marshall Ave. Construction is scheduled to begin soon and finish in November 2024.

Aligning with our mission, we’ve prioritized hiring contractors that are certified minority-owned and woman-owned business enterprises. They include Noor Companies, Greiner Construction, Assembly MN, and Guaranty Title. We are in the process of awarding subcontracts and will meet or exceed 25% of all subcontracts being awarded to Certified Businesses (e.g. minority-owned, woman-owned, and other small business enterprises).

We are so excited to take this step toward bringing our new vision to fruition: to be a cultural destination and community resource, where exceptional music education and enrichment is affordable, accessible, and rooted in the African American experience.

Our next steps include additional fundraising to expand our programs and capacity to bring our vision to life in our new building. To learn more about our capital campaign or make a gift, contact Amelia Colwell at amelia@walkerwest.org or 319-415-5078.


RONDO COMMUNITY MUSIC SERIES

RCMS Concert featuring
Jack Barrett Trio
April 6th

Save Your Spot

A wide variety of music can be heard in Jack Barrett’s compositions. Throughout his life, he has explored avenues of classical, progressive rock, metal and jazz. All of which have left their permanent mark on his sound. Raised in the Twin Cities, Barrett studied in the northern wilderness of St. John’s University where he earned a degree in piano performance. There, he was drawn to the sounds of Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett among others as he delved further into the sound and practice of jazz. Since then, his path has brought him to the sounds of modern players like Brad Mehldau and Tigran Hamasyan. Intense rhythms and rich harmonies dominate Barrett’s compositions, marked by concise and dynamic solos. With each new work he builds around a single concept, whether it is a rhythmic or harmonic motif or simply a feeling. Expanding from this, he crafts the song into a sprawling extrapolation, adding and transforming until the original idea is woven into every part of the music.

RSVP today to reserve your spot virtually on Crowdcast or Attend In-Person by registering on EventBrite!


SUMMER PROGRAM UPDATES

“Grow Through Music” Summer Camp

Our “Grow Through Music” camp offers a fun introduction to a variety of instruments for beginning students, and a way to reconnect with friends and instructors for returning students. Campers will learn in a supportive small group environment with a chance to perform during our end of camp presentation.

When: July 8 – July 26, 2024 | Monday – Friday | 8am – 12pm daily
Who: Grades K-6


Summer Music Production College Course at Hamline 

Supercharge your artistic voice this summer with hands-on Music Production instruction in this 2-week intensive college course at Hamline University! Full scholarships are available to all students.

When: July 15 – July 26, 2024 | Monday – Friday
Who: Grades 10+


Summer Jazz Intensive

The Summer Jazz Intensive program is a one week comprehensive experience for beginner to advanced youth musicians to hone their performing skills, take applied classes and interact with world-class jazz faculty at Walker|West.

When: July 29 – Aug 2, 2024 | Monday – Friday | 10am – 4pm daily
Who: Grades 6-12


Summer Jazz Violin Workshop

5-Day Intensive (For intermediate violin students)

This 5-day workshop is for violin (only) students looking to branch out from traditional classical violin or who desire to take their improvisation to the next level.

When: August 5 – 9, 2024 | Monday – Friday | 9am – 12pm daily
Who: Grades 5-12

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Blog

Masterclass with guest artist JD Allen

Event Description: 

Join us for a free masterclass with Detroit-born, New York-based jazz saxophonist, JD Allen. Whether you’re an aspiring musician or simply curious about the intricacies of jazz, this is an event you won’t want to miss. Activities include artist demonstration, student coaching and Q&A with the audience. Feel free to bring your instrument.

Seating is limited. Please rsvp by March 14.

Date & Time: Saturday, Mar 16, 2024 10:30AM – 12:30PM

Location: High School of Recording Arts 1166 University Ave W, St Paul, MN

Questions or More Info:  jack@walkerwest.org

About JD Allen:  Detroit-born, New York-based jazz saxophonist, composer, sideman, and bandleader who has won several Downbeat critics’ polls.

Saxophonist J.D. Allen is an adept soloist, steeped in the acoustic post-bop tradition but whose playing is open to an array of sounds, both mainstream and avant-garde. Following his early work with Betty Carter and Winard Harper, he garnered critical acclaim for 1999’s In Search Of…, 2002’s Pharoah’s Children, and 2008’s I Am I Am. He leads a long-running trio with bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston; they released albums like 2015’s Graffiti and 2016’s Americana: Musings on Jazz and Blues. He was also part of another trio with bassist Ian Kenselaar and drummer Nic Cacioppo, delivering 2019’s Barracoon and 2020’s Toys/Die Dreaming, before reuniting with August and Royston for 2022’s Americana, Vol. 2. Along with his small group work, he recorded a solo saxophone album, Queen City, and explored electronic soundscapes on This. in 2023.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, on December 11, 1972, Allen first became interested in music listening to classic funk and R&B albums by Sly and the Family Stone, Prince, and Marvin Gaye. He started on the saxophone at age 11 and was soon exploring the work of jazz and classical artists, from Sun Ra and Albert Ayler to Shostakovich and Prokofiev. After high school, he honed his skills as a music major at Hampton University in Virginia. From there, he moved to New York City where he joined the ranks of some of the leading jazz Young Lions of the day. Early on, he worked such notables as George Cables, Betty Carter, Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, Frank Foster’s Loud Minority Big Band, Butch Morris, David Murray, and Wallace Roney. His contemporary collaborators include Winard Harper, Orrin Evans, Gerald Cleaver, Eric Revis, Marcus Gilmore, Russell Gunn, Meshell Ndegéocello, Dave Douglas, Jeremy Pelt, Elisabeth Kontomanou, Lucian Ban, and the Red Records All-Stars.

Allen’s debut recording for the Criss Cross label, In Search Of…, won him an award for Best New Artist in Italy in 1999, and had reviewers praising him for his original compositions and bold playing. That same year he began touring and recording with drummer Cindy Blackman‘s ensemble. His second Criss Cross date, Pharoah’s Children, was a Jazziz magazine critics pick as a Top Ten Album of the Year in 2002.

Allen subsequently signed to the Sunnyside label, where he released three critically acclaimed albums — 2008’s I Am I Am, 2009’s Shine!, and 2011’s Victory! — before moving on to Savant Records. His debut for the label, 2012’s The Matador and the Bull and its follow-up, Grace, a year later, earned him two consecutive Downbeat Critics poll awards for Tenor Saxophonist and Composer. Allen expanded his trio to a quartet for 2014’s Bloom, where the artist drew from three primary inspirations: 20th century classical music, the Great American Songbook, and post-bop jazz improvisation. He wrote seven of the set’s ten tunes.

For 2015’s Graffiti, he introduced a new trio with bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston; the album was included on several year-end critics’ lists. That group returned for the following year’s Americana: Musings on Jazz and Blues. While it featured mostly originals, it did include the Delta standard “Another Man Done Gone,” by Vera Hall and “If You’re Lonesome, Then You’re Not Alone,” by contemporary saxophonist Bill McHenry. More albums appeared on Savant, including 2017’s Radio Flyer, which found him augmenting his trio with August and Royston with guitarist Liberty Ellman. The same group was on board for his 2018 ballads album Love Stone.

With 2019’s Barracoon and 2020 Toys/Die Dreaming, Allen introduced yet a different trio with bassist Ian Kenselaar and drummer Nic Cacioppo. During lockdown for the COVID-19 pandemic, Allen recorded his first-ever solo saxophone album, 2021’s Queen City, which found him drawing inspiration from similar recordings by Sonny Rollins, Coleman Hawkins, and Steve Lacy.

In 2022, he reunited with August and Royston for Americana, Vol. 2, which also featured guitarist Charlie Hunter. For 2023’s atmospherically textural This. he added electronics to his sound, recording at London’s Lightship 95 Studio with instrumentalist/sound engineer Alex Bonney and drummer Gwilym Jones.

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STRING STORIES MARCH 2024

Notes from the Walker West Music Academy String Department

In March the String Department celebrates two significant events: National Women’s History Month and Kamoinge Strings, STRINGOCRACY Concert.

Last year after our final string recital, we scheduled more departmental recitals starting in the 2023-2024 season to accommodate our growing enrollment, and the longer pieces our string students performed as they progressed in their studies. We also decided to establish formal Kamoinge Strings concerts in addition to the recitals. The ensemble, traditionally performing several selections at the end of our department recitals, had outgrown these programs. Fast forward to Saturday, March 9, Kamoinge Strings performs its STRINGOCRACY concert at Prospect Park United Methodist Church (22 SE Orlin Ave, Minneapolis, MN). Their first concert of the season was the Holiday Concert in December at our partner church, the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Saint Paul. Although the ensemble has performed at numerous venues this season, including at the Filmore – Minneapolis for the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers (MABL) Gala and most recently, at the Target Center for the Timberwolves’ Black History Night Game in February, Kamoinge Strings performs just two unaffiliated concerts each season.

This month’s concert is part of our year-long project, STRINGOCRACY, funded partly by the Eastman School of Music’s Paul R. Judy Center for Innovation and Research at the University of Rochester (NY). If the term “stringocracy” sounds a bit like “democracy” to you, don’t be deterred by the homophonic similarities. It is deliberate.

This year of presidential primaries and national elections seemed the perfect time to align our music-making and education with those ideas embedded in democracy. From the Greek words demos (people) and kratos (rule), organizations and governments that engage in democratic practices must make space for individual expression. This can be both empowering and messy! As James Baldwin wrote, “Every human being is an unprecedented miracle. One tries to treat them as the miracles they are while trying to protect oneself against the disasters they’ve become.” Okay, this may sound harsh, but when participating in collaborative expression, dialogue shared freely and cooperatively can be challenging if not in agreement with the majority. Yet, it is empowering and dynamic, nevertheless. In music-making and music-sharing, the dialectic of the demos (musician and audience) is translated through the “call & response”, improvisation, piece selection, and interpretation.

STRINGOCRACY will combine these ideas through works from the Baroque period by composers such as Telemann and Vivaldi and jazz standards by Bobby Timmons and Duke Ellington arranged for strings. The concert will also include a work by the Mali composer Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté that the Kronos String Quartet commissioned. Referred to as the “Clapping” the music is inspired by the songs of the girls and women of Diabaté village.

Kamoinge Strings will perform works from across cultures and centuries, putting their stamp on the familiar and not-so-familiar. As a string ensemble comprised on primarily students of color, Kamoinge adds to the dialectic and creative expression demographically by their presence. Through its name, the ensemble calls attention to the act of community (group working together) and representation (inequitable number of Black and Latino students in youth symphonies and professional orchestras)

The concert is part of Prospect Park’s Concert Series and is FREE. However, we ask audiences to give what they can to support student scholarships and the work of the String Department at Waker West. String faculty Earl Ross, Ernest Bisong, Patty Ryan, Jack Barrett, and a guest rhythm section of student musicians round out the performer roster.

Wacheke Njoroge, one of our Kamoinge strings students and Kamoinge members, got a head start on celebrating women in music. On February 11, she performed as a guest musician with the Sisterhood Swing Band in a concert featuring sacred music by the great African American Jazz pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams. The concert was at St. Thomas More Community Catholic Church in Saint Paul. The all- women swing band, founded by Sarah Schmalenberger, is the only band in the Twin Cities. Wacheke, who is a senior at Roseville High School, sat in at the She Rock Open Jam on Saturday, February 24, a bi-monthly event at the academy where women, non-binary and trans musicians of all ages and skill levels “jam out” together. Talk about the alignment of STRINGOCRACY and National Women’s History Month!

Because there are still far too few BIPOC women in Classical and Jazz music, we celebrate the extraordinary talent of just a few here.

Diane Monroe (violinist) – Learn more First in her class at Curtis Institute, Diane, a native Philadelphian, performs in Classical and Jazz idioms

Regina Carter (violinist) – Learn more With roots in Detroit, MI but currently living in New Jersey, Regina is arguably the most renowned Jazz violinist performing today. Regina will be the headliner this year at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival in June.

Tai Murray (violinist) – Learn more When she performed with Minnesota Sinfonia 16 years ago in a performance of the Paganini Violin Concerto, several of my students attended this concert. They have never forgotten her presence as a Black woman at the front of a professional orchestra. Tai, who hails Chicago, currently teaches at Yale University’s School of Music and performs internationally.

Tomeika Reid (cellist) – Learn more American composer, educator and cellist, Tomeka is a 2022 MacArtur Grant Award (colloquially known as the Genuis Award) recipient. She pushes the boundaries of contemporary, classical, jazz, and avantgarde music. She performs at the Walker Art Center in March.

By celebrating their (her)stories and musical genius, we encourage our students to see themselves and their possibilities as string students and musicians. Happy National Women’s History Month from the Walker West String Department!

Categories
Blog Newsletter

February Newsletter


STRING STORIES


During National Black History Month, we celebrate the contributions of African Americans. As the oldest music school founded by African Americans in Minnesota, every month provides us with a reason to celebrate the contributions of Black/African American music.

To begin the month, Kamoinge Strings performed the Black National Anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” for the opening of the Timberwolves game at the Target Center Friday February 2. This was a first for both Kamoinge Strings and the Timberwolves as they have never had an instrumental version of the anthem performed. Talk about being pacesetters! Our students and string department continue to make history.

This month, our String students also perform in their respective youth symphonies’ winter concerts. On Sunday, February 11, 2024, MYS will perform at Orchestra Hall, followed by GTCYS performances on February 24 and 25 at the same venue. Visit the respective websites of these organizations to support our students!

Looking ahead, make sure to mark your calendar for Saturday, March 9, 2024. Kamoinge Strings will perform its winter concert, “Stringocracy”, at Prospect Park UMC in Minneapolis. Students will showcase works ranging from the Baroque period to Jazz and Hip Hop.


KEEPIN ON PODCAST PRESENTS:
FATHER AND SON GRIOTS SPEAK IN LOVE

Grammy award winning musical artist, Stokley Wlliams of Mint Condition, and his cultural historian father, Mahmoud El Kati, share their message of pride in family, cultural heritage, and humanity, through music and storytelling, while demonstrating their strong father/son bond.


RONDO COMMUNITY MUSIC SERIES


RCMS Concert Featuring 
The Rondo Band
February 17th 

Save Your Spot

The Rondo Community Music Series, presented by Walker West Music Academy, showcases a current generation of artists inspired by Rondo’s history, cultural expression, and resilience. From September through April 2024, the series will feature a variety of musicians and artists. We invite you to join our hour-long concerts and experience the power of music in shaping communities. Although all shows are free, registration is required.

RSVP today to reserve your spot virtually on Crowdcast or Attend In-Person by registering on EventBrite!

RCMS Concert featuring
Jack Breen Ensemble
March 2nd

Save Your Spot

Jack Breen has strong ties to the Walker|West community. Since 2004, he has been a student at Walker|West, where he began lessons with Felix James. In 2019, Jack joined our Teaching and Performing faculty. Jack graduated from Lawrence University Conservatory in 2018, earning a dual degree in Saxophone performance and Music Education. Additionally, he interned at the New York Jazz Academy in Manhattan.

RSVP today to reserve your spot virtually on Crowdcast or Attend In-Person by registering on EventBrite!


PROGRAM UPDATES


Homies In Harmony

For children ages 0 – 6 and their caregivers.

Auntie Jayanthi introduces musical concepts and early sound exploration drawing from African American cultural experience, vital artists, and familiar folk music. Early music learners will explore various instruments, sing, and play in a nurturing environment.

For questions contact Student Services info@walkerwest.org 
Registration closes March 1st

When: Fridays at 10 AM | February 9 – March 29
or
When: Saturdays at 10 AM or 11 AM | February 10 – March 30

Digital Music Production Program

Learn to make music the modern way through Walker|West’s Digital Music Production Program (DMP). DMP is designed to introduce young students to a whole new world of musical possibilities, through new cutting-edge musical technology. Register today!

When: Tuesday or Thursday | 5 pm – 6pm 
Who: Ages 13 to 21

Register for Spring Semester

Walker|West offers lessons in Voice, Piano, Organ, Bass, Percussion, Woodwind, Brass, Guitar, Violin, Viola and Cello for students of all ages.
Registration now open until June 8th!


SUMMER PROGRAM UPDATES


“Grow Through Music” Summer Camp

Our “Grow Through Music” camp offers a fun introduction to a variety of instruments for beginning students, and a way to reconnect with friends and instructors for returning students. Campers will learn in a supportive small group environment with a chance to perform during our end of camp presentation.

When: July 8 – July 26, 2024 | Monday – Friday | 8am – 12pm daily
Who: Grades K-6

Summer Music Production College Course at Hamline

Supercharge your artistic voice this summer with hands-on Music Production instruction in this 2-week intensive college course at Hamline University! Full scholarships are available to all students.

When: July 15 – July 26, 2024 | Monday – Friday
Who: Grades 10+

Summer Jazz Intensive

The Summer Jazz Intensive program is a one week comprehensive experience for beginner to advanced youth musicians to hone their performing skills, take applied classes and interact with world-class jazz faculty at Walker|West.

When: July 29 – Aug 2, 2024 | Monday – Friday | 10am – 4pm daily
Who: Grades 6-12

Summer Jazz Violin Workshop

5-Day Intensive (For intermediate violin students)

This 5-day workshop is for violin (only) students looking to branch out from traditional classical violin or who desire to take their improvisation to the next level.

When: August 5 – 9, 2024 | Monday – Friday | 9am – 12pm daily
Who: Grades 5-12


Categories
Newsletter

January Newsletter

Walker West Events for MLK Day

January 15, 2024

Reading of “Memphis 6:01” with RiceRoots LLC
This event is at capacity and closed to the public. Watch the livestream here.
Walker West is partnering with RiceRoots LLC to present in the debut readings of the powerful episode “Memphis 6:01©” at Walker West Music Academy’s new building, located at 650 Marshall Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104. 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM. Doors for 1st reading close at 11:30 AM sharp. No admittance until next reading.

Kamoinge Strings @ Governor Walz’ MLK Awards Reception
Private Event
Kamoinge Strings will perform for the Governor’s MLK Awards Reception at the Ordway Music Music Center in downtown Saint Paul. This private event follows the 38th Annual State Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration. This year’s theme is ONE DREAM. ONE MINNESOTA. Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan sponsored a series of events over the holiday weekend leading up to the celebration concert at the Ordway, which starts at 10:30 am.  Kamoinge Strings is honored to provide music for the private award reception immediately following the concert held backstage.


Jazz Piano Workshop

Co-presenting with Schubert Club. Designed for beginning through advanced middle and high school students, this day-long workshop includes skills-based group instruction, masterclasses, performances by the clinicians and scholarship awards! No prior jazz experience required. Prerequisite is 1 year private study on piano.

Clinicians include Mary Louise Knutson, Kavyesh Kaviraj, William Duncan and Bryan Nichols.

Registration deadline is Jan 17.

When: Saturday, January 27th from 9am to 4pm
Where: Inver Hills Community College


Experience Jazz Final Showcase Jan 20 at HSRA

Join Walker West for a showcase by our 20+ Experience Jazz students who have been working together for the last 12 weeks at High School for Recording Arts. Students of various backgrounds have been recording, rehearsing and creating music rooted in jazz, blues and R&B, and will share the music they’ve been working on. Student performance will be at 12:30pm, doors at 12:15pm.


Rondo Community Music Series Panel Discussion

JOIN US FOR DISCUSSIONS on Music, Culture, Community and Education. Conversations informed and influenced by the historic Rondo Community.

Wednesday, January 31 at 7:00 pm

Topic: Bowed Strings in Jazz featuring Ernest Bisong, Greg Byers, and David Feily


February 3rd RCMS Concert
ft. Minneapolis String Project

Rondo Community Music Series

Save Your Spot

Minneapolis String Project is a high energy trio that’s breaking boundaries through eclectic pop/funk covers and genre-defying original works. Ernest Bisong, David Feily, and Greg Byers performed together for years in diverse spheres of the Minnesota music scene before forming their unique musical partnership. This is their first appearance in the series.

MPLS String Project deviates from the standard repertoire of classical or bluegrass instruments and instead draws from jazz, fusion, rock, soul, folk, and Brazilian music influences. Their original compositions expand the conventional use of the many instruments they play. Live performances leave audiences dazzled by their technical wizardry, simpatico improvisation, and engaging on-stage presence.

*MPLS String project is sponsored by McPherson Guitars, Coda Bow, D’Addario Strings, NS Design, and Acoustic Electric Strings.

RSVP today to reserve your spot virtually on Crowdcast or 
Attend In-Person by registering on EventBrite!


Upcoming events

  • Recitals are January 27 @ 6pm and January 28 @ 4pm
  • Spring Semester Registration is happening now. The Semester starts Monday, January 29th. 

Save The Dates for Summer Camps!

Registration link and camp details will be available on our website February 1st!  Contact info@walkerwest.org for more information.

– “Grow Through Music” Camp from July 8 – 26
– Summer Jazz Intensive from July 29 – Aug 2
– Jazz Violin Workshop from August 5 – 9

Categories
Blog Newsletter

FEBRUARY 2024 NEWSLETTER | STRING STORIES

Photo by Benny Moreno

Notes from the Walker West Music Academy String Department

During National Black History Month, we celebrate the contributions of African Americans. As the oldest music school founded by African Americans in Minnesota, every month gives us a reason to celebrate the contributions of Black / African American music. In the String Department this month we highlight the musicians who perform jazz on bowed instruments.

On Wednesday January 31, 2024, we discuss the legacy of string instruments in jazz with our very own Ernest Bisong (upper strings instructor) and members of the Minneapolis String Project. This panel discussion is part of the Rondo Community Music Series moderated by Earl Ross. The goal of the discussion is to provide a deeper understanding of the history of bowed instruments in a musical genre not often known to include violins, violas, and cellos. When most audiences think of jazz and bowed instruments, they think of the double bass, a standard component of the rhythm section of jazz bands. The discussion will explore how the upper strings have been used in jazz dating back to its earliest days and how these instruments have continued to push boundaries beyond the Western classical music canons. If you haven’t already, register today for this online discussion

On Saturday, February 3, 2024, the Minneapolis String Project performs in concert at Walker West Music Academy, 760 Selby Ave at 7 pm. If you can’t make it in-person, you can stream the concert live. The concert is FREE, but you must register HERE. Minneapolis String Project is a high energy trio that’s breaks boundaries through eclectic pop/funk covers and genre-defying original works. Ernest Bisong (violin), David Feily (cello), and Greg Byers (guitar) performed in diverse spheres of the Minnesota music scene before forming their unique musical partnership.

As for our students, Kamoinge Strings will perform the National Black Anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing for the opening of the Timberwolves game at the Target Center on Friday February 2, 2024. This is a first for Kamoinge Strings. They’ve performed for judges, lawyers and county commissioners, but never for the NBA. The students are excited to play their arrangement of the anthem as they set the tone for Black History Month in front of fifteen thousand basketball fans. It is apparently a first for the Timberwolves and the NBA. Normally the song is sung. The team has never had an instrumental version of the anthem performed. Talk about being pacesetters! Our students and string department continue to make history.

Ten of our current Walker West string students participate in the Minnesota Youth Symphonies (MYS), Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies (GTCYS), and/or Artaria Chamber Music School (ACMS). In February these students perform in their respective orchestras and chamber groups in winter concerts of these highly competitive organizations. On Friday, February 2, 2024, Rahel Hashel (violin) and Kamau Rodriguez-Pegg (viola) comprise two members of a string quintet performing Dvorak’s Quintet in G op. 77 for two violins, viola, cello and bass. Patty Ryan, a member of the Artaria String Quartet and cello instructor at Walker West coaches their chamber ensemble.

On Sunday, February 11, 2024, MYS performs at Orchestra Hall, and on February 24 and 25, GTCYS performs at Orchestra Hall. Check out the respective websites for these organizations and support our students!

Looking ahead… be sure to add to your calendar, Saturday March 9, 2024. Kamoinge Strings performs its winter concert, Stringocracy at Prospect Park UMC in Minneapolis. Students perform works from the Baroque period to Jazz and Hip Hop.