April Newsletter

Accents & Illuminations

Walker|West Newsletter: April 2023

Spring is upon us, and we’re stepping to a tune of our own. We’re growing through music with new collaborations, fresh takes on our programming, and a prosperous future ahead. Keep reading this newsletter for insight on upcoming events, and to learn how to ask your senators to support Walker|West!

Let the Music In!

Spring opportunities to explore with Walker|West

Prepare to take a trip to Eau Claire, WI, for the Eau Claire Jazz Fest. Two Walker|West Youth Jazz Ensembles will be performing April 22nd. Take a moment to find out more! Gather with us, and support our young musicians this weekend!

Also on the Horizon: 

Saturday, April 29th, we’re partnering with She Rock She Rock for their long-running bi-monthly “She Rock All Ages Open Jam.” This is a collaborative event for women, femmes, and non-binary musicians of all ages and skill levels to sing or play with the professional women musicians of the She Rock house band–or just relax and enjoy the performance. Young music lovers and learners are encouraged to rock the stage! Let’s prop up future performers–let’s rock! The event runs 2-5pm at Walker|West.

Senate Bill #SF674; requesting appropriation for Walker|West

Help Walker|West gain state support for our Capital Campaign!
Join us on the quest for senatorial votes in support of Walker|West Music Academy. This specific request will contribute to the renovation costs of our organization’s future home, a necessary and deserved expansion of our learning space, and programming. Our initial request was for $5.4 million, in which $2.5 million was successfully appropriated with House support. Let’s secure support from the senate for the full amount!

If the Minnesota Senate Committee on Capital Investment moves to approve, this funding reinforces Walker|West as a major community cultural hub in Rondo. While Senator Klobuchar did give us a shoutout on twitter last month for our recognition by the NBA Foundation, Now is the time to let your senator know that they should vote to appropriate funds for Walker|West Music Academy. Every action towards our Capital Campaign helps us grow through music and improve our community. Here are the steps you can take!

Time is on your side!

Register for our remaining summer camps
While slots for camps are filling up quickly, we have openings left for two out of the three camps we’re offering this summer!

  • Summer Jazz Intensive is for middle school and high school youth who are new to jazz or experienced in jazz music, and want to improve their improvisation skills.
  • The Summer Jazz Violin workshop is designed for violin students looking to branch out from traditional classical music, or desire to improve their improvisational skills.

Find out more details regarding summer camps on our website. Tuition assistance is available.


March Newsletter

Accents & Illuminations

Walker|West Newsletter: March 2023

February Flew away, and now spring is creeping onto our shoulders. Forget about the idea of flurries and slush, and let us refresh your memory on why Everybody Loves Walker|West. As you read this newsletter, you can catch up on what our music learners have been up to, and get a glimpse of the next step in our scales.

A Slam dunk for our Digital Music Program

Walker|West wins with the NBA Foundation

Let’s get loud and thank the Minnesota Timberwolves, Minnesota Lynx, and the NBA Foundation for awarding us with a grant that will help restructure our Digital Music Production program! With support from the Minnesota Timberwolves, we were selected alongside thirty organizations throughout the nation. Walker|West joins them in gratitude for this generous support for programming that uplifts our communities. 

Joining Forces

Big Changes for Minnesota Jazz Education
In February 2023, we welcomed Katia Cardenas (above) to Walker|West. She served as Executive Director for Minnesota Jazz Education for several years, and is now the Program Director for “Walker|West Without Walls”. This merge with Minnesota Jazz Education programming that has been underway will continue the expansion of our mission to gather, explore, and grow through music. We’re excited for everything we’ll discover on this new path.

Always More to Explore

Corner Conversations with the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation
This winter, we had a chance to partner with the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation to discuss the necessity of music education. Our Executive Director, Braxton Haulcy sat down with Chris Garner from the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation for a recent episode of “Corner Conversations”, a video series that highlights the impactful work of local organizations. Many thanks to our funding partner for continuous support. Watch & Learn!

For the live music lover in you

Rondo Community Series
The latest iteration of the Rondo Community Music Series was some of the best live music you could easily tune into! The lineup was full of performing artists that regularly teach Walker|West students. Remember that you can catch up or re-watch each performance on Crowdcast, and on YouTube! Maybe you have a favorite performance? We would love to know! Subscribe to Walker|West on Crowdcast, so you don’t miss anything we have coming up.

Special thanks to our legislative supporters! $2.6 Million has been awarded toward the Walker|West Capital Investment, Minnesota Direct Appropriation Bill.

Thank you to our Funding Partners!

  • Jean Schroepfer towards our Capital Campaign
  • Margaret Perryman for General Operations
  • Jock Donaldson towards our Capital Campaign

Hope lives in the Power of Music

Rondo Night: A new way to highlight St. Paul’s Black Entrepreneurs!
The St. Paul Winter Carnival, held on (date) was opened with some new energy through the Walker|West Jazz Ensemble. While we’d love to tell you how awesome it was to support the recognition of black history and celebrate , there have already been some accounts. Check out the coverage from Kare 11, and Pioneer Press! and consider Walker|West when seeking local talent. After all, what’s more impactful than the power of Music?

In memoriam:
Former Board Chair Franklin C. Jesse Jr.

Please join us in sending condolences to the Family of Franklin C. Jesse Jr., who passed away peacefully in February 2023. Mr. Jesse served as Board Chair for Walker|West and was an incessant supporter of Walker|West Music Academy. He assisted the organization with his skills and dedication to the community. If you wish to celebrate his memory monetarily, it was indicated in his obituary to send donations to Walker|West Music Academy in his honor. We appreciate Franklin C. Jesse for championing our mission while he was on earth, and while he rests in the heavens.


January Newsletter

As we celebrate 35 years of music learning and community connection we’re excited to continue this journey with each of you. Thank you for being in our community where we gather, explore, and continue to grow together. May this new year be filled with gratitude, hopefulness, and joy for what’s to come!

Accents & Illuminations

Walker|West Music Academy | Newsletter | January 2023

Join us this Saturday for the first open house of the year!

You, your family, and friends are invited to this month’s open house! We welcome you to meet some of our staff, learn about what we offer, and you may see one of our programs in action. Come spend a few hours with us! Enjoy refreshments, and ask anything you want to know about Walker|West. Enroll for individual lessons, and find out how you can support our organization.

Saturday, January 28th, 2023 | 10am – 2pm

Walker|West Music Academy
760 Selby Ave, St. Paul, MN 55104.

If you have any questions or need more information, please give us a call at 651-224-2929 or email us at

Get ready for the next show in the Rondo Community Music Series: Felix James

Saturday, February 4, 2023 – Save your spot to watch online

Don’t miss this special Black History Month performance and Felix’s first appearance in the series.

In order to watch with us in our virtual music hall, be sure to click ‘Save My Spot’ when you get to Crowd cast, to get updates about this show, including a reminder just before show begins. In order to attend in person, use the button below to contact Libby Turner or call/text 651-263-3831. 

To attend in person please email:

You are invited to the 137th Saint Paul Winter Carnival’s first RONDO NIGHT

Join us for an evening of lively Rondo performances. Support BIPOC artisans, businesses, and organizations. Savor flavorful bites from Taste of Rondo while learning more about the vibrant history of Rondo.

It will be a night to remember.

This Event is Sponsored by a Grant from the: Saint Paul Star Program. Plus Presenting Sponsors: Priority Courier Experts and Xcel Energy

  • When: Thursday, February 2nd, 5:00 – 9:30 p.m.
  • Where: Landmark Center 75 West 5th Street, Saint Paul 55102
  • What: Music, art, food, fun, friends, special guest appearances / Free prize drawings / Free event with Free public transportation.

*Walker|West is a RONDO Roundtable member organization and invites you to attend this external event. For more information contact the event organizers.

Gather, Explore and Grow: Thank you for 35 years of support!

The joyful sounds and spirit of music enrichment that originate on Selby Avenue in St. Paul are fueled by a broad community of supporters. Our key income sources are a mix of revenue generating programming, support from corporations and foundations, and individual donors and volunteers. 

Special Thanks to our recent funding partners:

  • Anonymous ($250,000 for Capital Campaign)
  • US BANK Foundation ($100,000 for Capital Campaign)
  • 2022 Innovation in Alzheimer’s Caregiving Award, Family Caregiver Alliance (for Amazing Grace Chorus)

If you would like to make a major gift, please get in touch with our Executive Director, Braxton Haulcy

( | 651-789-1684).

Thank you for contributing to the success of Walker|West!

New Year, New Teaching Artist – Welcoming Michael May

Michael May is a guitarist / educator. He has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Wayne State University. He studied under Steven Carrier and Matt Michaels at Wayne State University and privately with Guitarist John E. Lawrence. Michael has worked as a teaching/artist with Twin Cities Mobile Jazz, Park Square Theater (Marie and Rosetta) and continues to perform with various artists in the Twin Cities area.⁣

⁣What compelled you to join on at Walker|West? Any connection to the school?
”Walker West has a great legacy and reputation for music education. I also have many friends on the Walker West faculty.”

⁣What is the importance / benefit of music education?
“There are many benefits of a music education. It is GREAT exercise for the brain!” ⁣

⁣How would you describe your teaching style?
”Organic, Intuitive and Personal”⁣

Begin, re-start, or continue your music learning journey with Michael May and other teaching artists here at Walker|West. Enrolling now. New Semester begins soon.

Photo: Unity Church

January Jazz Sunday with Walker West Jazz Ensemble @ Unity Church

Sunday, January 29 | 2:00pm | Unity Church Sanctuary

This concert will feature Unity Church youth Callum Schultz (upright bass) and Will Aldrich (saxophone) in performance with other members of the Walker West Jazz Ensemble. Come support these young musicians and the incredible community resource that is Walker West Music Academy. The concert is free but donations will be gratefully accepted in support of the work and students of Walker West.

*This is an external event featuring Walker|West students. We invite you to attend this free concert in support of the jazz ensemble. For questions about the event please contact the event organizers

Support Music Education: Consider Monthly Giving in 2023

Thank you to all who made their EOY gifts this past December and throughout last year. If you’d like to get a jump on your 2023 charitable giving, deepening impact in a simple, secure way: consider making your gift a monthly sustaining donation.

Monthly giving makes it easier to break up your gift over time, for greater impact as well as helping our organization have funds we can count on throughout the year.

Capital Campaign

Tell the MN Leg About the Impact of Walker|West

We need your help tell the MN Legislature about Walker|West

Walker|West could receive up to $5.4M through one time appropriation bills SF0674 (MN State Senate) and HF0869 (MN House) to use as a capital investment for our new facility. Securing funding for a new site is the cornerstone of our current capital campaign. The bill is likely to be voted on in February.

We could use your support to let the MN Legislature know about the healing power of music and the Walker|West Mission. Here’s what you can do:

When you have a moment give them a call, or send an email to tell them why you support Walker|West!

Talking points: Using your voice to tell the story of Walker|West’s Impact

Here’s why Walker|West is a great candidate for this capital investment

We want to make sure legislators hear about how our 35 year-old, culturally rooted and responsive community music school is doing the work to bring enrichment, healing, and academic support to our community through the power of music. 

With our strategic direction and capital campaign, we’re committed to youth music education access and building more community centered space for wider and deeper connection. As a MN Regional Cultural Treasure, we are engaging students and families close by (with lessons, and school residencies), around the nation, and even internationally (with virtual instruction, concerts, and other community partnerships)! 

We have the experience, expertise, and enthusiasm to continue bringing the benefits of music education to K-12 students and students of all ages –from infants to elders.

Learn more about our Capital Campaign and other ways to support:

See the MN House bill language here: HF 869 as introduced – 93rd Legislature (2023 – 2024)

See the MN Senate bill language here: SF 674 as introduced – 93rd Legislature (2023 – 2024)

Capital Campaign

Walker|West Announces Design and Build Team for Capital Campaign

Capital Campaign Updates

As part of our Power of Music to Heal our Community Campaign, we are are moving to a new space. More than just a building for lessons and performances we are seeking to build a destination and resource for our community. We have the design and build team in place to do just that. Read more about the team below!

To learn more about our capital campaign or to make your pledge or gift visit our Capital Campaign page.

Build Team: Noor Construction & Greiner Constructions General Contractors




Design Team: Locus Architecture


Project Manager. Designer Design Lead

Building & Facility Management Project Team



Fall Newsletter

Walker|West String students and faculty led by Instructor Earl Ross during a rehearsal to accompany Pavielle French for the debut of her original work “The Sovereign Suite,” which premiered earlier in 2022.

A Season of Reflection and Change

At Walker|West, our years are jam-packed with recitals, camps, festivals, and more! The colors of the season create time for reflection and recollection of our goals. Fall cues up a shift in priorities for many of us, but most of all, colors our minds with new ideas. As you read this newsletter, catch a glimpse of what’s new with our programs and learn how you can help us exceed the goals of our capital campaign!

Happy sounds only: Early Childhood Education with Homies in Harmony

Walker West proudly provides music education for students of all ages –including infants and toddlers. Bring your little ones to enjoy early sound exploration with Homies in Harmony, led by Auntie Jayanthi. Gather, explore and grow through music together! The new session begins December 2nd. Enrolling now.

Walker|West at the Minnesota State Fair w/MPR

We’d like to send a huge thank you to Minnesota Public Radio for hosting us on MPR Day at the State Fair. Next to a fantastic sound stage, a group of staff and volunteers represented Walker|West at the great Minnesota get-together to usher in the fall season. Nearby patrons received branded hand fans to beat the heat, and were treated with some of the best musical performances outside of The Grandstand!

Special Thanks to our funding partners!

  • Carlson Family Foundation for General Operations
  • City of Saint Paul Cultural Star Program for our Capital Campaign
  • City of Saint Paul Neighborhood Star Program for our Capital Campaign
  • Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies for tuition assistance
  • HRK Foundation for General Operations

Major League Soccer-Hometown Hero (award) for General Operations
Read More: MLS All-Star Hometown Heroes Showcase celebrates, honors Twin City community impact leaders |

  • Minnesota State Arts Board for General Operations
  • Nordson Corporation Foundation for General Operations
  • Patrick & Aimee Butler Family Foundation for General Operations
  • Regional Cultural Treasure Award for General Operations (funding made possible by a collaboration of the McKnight, Ford, Bush and Jerome Foundations)
  • Schubert Club for tuition assistance
  • Securian Financial Foundation for General Operations
  • Xcel Energy Foundation for tuition assistance

If you would like to make a major gift, contact our Executive Director, Braxton Haulcy ( | 651-789-1684).

Thank you for contributing to the success of Walker|West!

Thinking BIG: A conversation with the National Endowment for Humanities

The Minnesota Humanities Center, as the state’s affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), recently conducted a self-assessment with NEH. As part of this assessment, which happens every 5 years, NEH came to hear first hand about the impact of the funding and relationship with the Humanities Center. In August we accepted the invitation to host NEH’s assessment team along with the Humanities Center’s leadership staff. Our Amazing Grace Chorus was the focus of the visit. 

We provided a tour, sharing details about the 2021-23 MN State Legacy Cultural Heritage grant in the amount of $145,000 for our Keepers of the Culture: Our Journey, Our Stories Through Words, Pictures, and Melodies project. Feedback from the visit showed that NEH and the Humanities Center were impressed with our team, facilities, and vision. 

“This project is an excellent example of the impact the Legacy funding has in communities” notes Kevin Lindsey, CEO at the Minnesota Humanities Center.

In keeping with NEH’s focus on the study and application of humanities with attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions and history, our offerings place cultural knowledge in the forefront to foster rich human connection. With support from the NEH (funding at this level is another powerful ‘first’ for our organization), we show in deeper ways how we have harnessed the power and benefits of music, especially from the African-American cultural tradition.

Walker|West has an additional RFP out for funding to support the purchase and renovation of the 650 Marshall Building, the cornerstone of our Capital Campaign.

Earlier this fall we were part of Rep. Betty McCollum’s Selby Ave Business Walk with our neighbors, Golden Thyme. Thank you to Rep. McCollum for stopping by and for lending her voice of support (along with Sen. Klobuchar and Sen. Smith) of our NEH capital grant that is under consideration.

Giving big: The Stevens Family Gives to Inspire! Featured in our soon-to-be-released Impact Report is the story of the Stevens Family. Inspired by a, “heart connection to our mission” this family decided to give big for our Capital Campaign.

Meet the Architects! Locus Architecture selected for the Walker|West cultural hub. Please join us, and welcome the talented team that will lead in the curation of a new space in conjunction with our capital campaign.

Streaming for the first time: Watch our 2022 Fall Voice Recital

Let’s get Digital: Register for our Digital Music Production program. This series of classes includes training in the latest tools and software, taught by some of Walker|West’s finest performing artists, Ernest Bisong, Solomon Parham, Kevin Washington and Kavyesh Kaviraj.

Art + Medicine feature w/ TPT

Our Amazing Grace Chorus is featured in a special episode of Art +Medicine, a series that examines healthcare through the arts. Walker|West programs for adults 55 and older exemplify the healing power of music, and we couldn’t be more excited to share this collaboration!

Save your spot to watch online with us. RSVP to watch in-person. Catch up on shows you may have missed. Rewatch the shows you love. All this and more on our website.

Changes at Walker|West: Farewell Lisa!

Early September marked the end of the Lisa Moy era at Walker|West. After nearly a decade as our Student Services Coordinator and then later Student Services Manager, event emcee of choice and warm, welcoming presence when you walked through the front door –Lisa is moving along in her career. Thank you Lisa! We wish you all the best in your future endeavors, including being the newest flute student of Mr. Felix James!

Support Walker|West by giving to the max: You can help get our Jazz Ensembles Gig Ready!

Let’s get our Jazz ensembles gig ready! Join us in preparing for the biggest fundraising day of the year as a MN Non-Profit. Stay connected as we look to raise funds for designated performance instruments and equipment. The Walker|West Jazz ensembles need their instruments in top shape for a consistent performance schedule. Make sure to mark your calendars! Give to the Max Day is November 17th.

Thank you for your continued support of Walker|West


MetroNOME Brewery Gives to the Max for Music Education at Walker|West

Our lowertown neighbors, MetroNOME Brewery are making a big impact for our Jazz Ensembles this year for Give To The Max. Earlier this fall the cozy and cool venue hosted a performance by Wynton Marsalis as an addendum to his recent Orchestra Hall appearances. At this event donors raised nearly $4,000 for music education and MetroNOME decided to split the amount between us and our neighbors to the west, Hopewell Music Cooperative North. 

The generous gift is just in time to help us reach our #GTMD22 goal which is focused on getting our accomplished Jazz ensembles gig ready. Our Youth and Adult ensembles have opened for international musicians at the Twin Cities Jazz Fest. They have graced the stage of the Selby Avenue Jazz Fest, performed at the Landmark Center –and recently they opened for (the very same) Wynton Marsalis at Orchestra Hall. ⁣

Our Program Director Tonya Gregory and Founder Grant West went for a tour of the brewery last week. We caught up with Bill Eddins, (Co-Owner, Chief Design Officer, Assistant Brewer and Music Director Emeritus of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra) for a short interview.

How was MetroNOME, a for profit organization with a mission dedicated to music education, conceived?

The year 2020 hit. Come the middle of March –everything I was involved in had disappeared. All my gigs, gone. My wife and I were doing Thai-Yoga massage at our studio, gone. I was a tennis judge, gone. Everything disappeared.

For the first time in my life I found myself with nothing to do. And then in May, we had the riots. My third set of riots. Miami in ‘89, LA in ‘92 and now here. About a month later, I found myself in the shower on a beautiful late June day, getting madder and madder and madder. From the shower window I looked out, through the anger thinking, you should brew today, it’s a perfect day and you should brew today!

The other half of my brain was saying, Bill, you just went through your third set of riots. Why are we fighting the same fight that we were fighting 30 odd years ago? Nothing has changed. Being a musician, my next thought was –we’re not investing in the things that make our society better. Like music and music education. Why are these the first things on the chopping block? It makes no sense. I sat there in the shower, staring at one tile for at least ten minutes. Something clicked. I got out, sent an email to Matt (MetroNOME co-founder/co-owner) and said, Here’s my idea: We’re going to found a brewery and once we’re profitable, we are going to take our proceeds and fund music education for underprivileged youth. 

I sent that email out and didn’t hear from that guy for like TEN DAYS! No call, no text, no reply –I was tempted to drive by his house to see if there was a “For Sale” or “SOLD” sign out in front. Like maybe he disappeared off the face of the planet, to get away from this crazy idea I’d pitched him. 10 days after that he got in touch and said, “yes, this could work.” We started working on MetroNOME from there.

How was the connection to Walker|West made?

Dude, I’m in music! I’m a musician and there is no such thing as 6 degrees of separation in our business– it’s never more than two– so as soon as any little connection gets made, it’s like the neurons are firing. It was utterly inevitable for us to be connected with Walker|West. I’d heard of Walker|West through the years. Before I was involved in building MetroNOME, I’d been hearing about Walker|West. The Twin Cities is a very musically active area, there’s a ton of music going on. It’s one of the big reasons that I like living here.

On the importance of supporting music education:

As much as the Twin Cities is a very active scene, there is a section of society that insists that these things –the arts, music education–that these things, things that make us better as a society are not important. That they are superfluous, are add-ons. Some ask why we would even waste money on these things. This enrages me on every single level because why would you not want to invest in things that make society better? 

It’s as simple as that in my book. Is the money that much more important than living in a civilized society? It’s become my mission to turn that around and to ensure that any kid who wants to learn and study music has the opportunity. When it comes to music education, I will absolutely throw money wherever it can go!

I know that like 4%-5% of these kids may end up in the MN Orchestra (my background is in the classical genres) and that’s fine. I know the other 95% will either play in rock bands, or do jazz, or world music, or may not even do anything musical past high school, but they get that experience. They will understand why music is so important. The fun of it, the joy of it, and the fact that it makes our society better because it brings us together as human beings. 

The whole thing about music, from a sociological standpoint, is that it forces us to interact with one another. Music builds community past racial, gender, sociological barriers and that’s the wonderful thing about it for me!

Is there any common ground between brewing beer and playing music?

Brewing beer is easy, anyone can brew beer. Brewing good beer is pretty easy as well. But brewing a beer that’s good today, good tomorrow and again and again going forward –that’s hard! What we are trying to do is eliminate variables and that’s the same thing you do when you are practicing an instrument. The technique is the same day after day, after day, after day. It’s just that you can use what you’ve learned differently. What if we put the emphasis here, what if we change the amount of an ingredient there. Subtle differences. 

We thank Bill (and Matt) and MetroNOME Brewery for their wonderful gift towards this year’s GTMD goal. Help us get to the goal by November 17th. Gifts of any size whether one-time or recurring make an impact.



We all start somewhere.

Walker|West started in a small room with a few instruments. Music for students in Rondo in 1988, wasn’t available nor accessible. This is still the case for many African-American students, students in our neighborhood, and students from low- income households.

Just as Rev. Walker and Grant West stepped in to fill a gap then, we are continuing the essential work of opening music education access for students of all ages. What’s a better setting than local schools?

Our Walker|West Without Walls initiative, is central to our strategic direction. Students participate in weekly classes with one or more of our teaching and performing artists, for about 8-12 weeks. Regularly culminating in a final performance at their school for friends and family to enjoy.

Can you recall a time where the study of music was required, and a necessary part of your education? You may have chosen an instrument–like the snare, or trumpet, or maybe even the clarinet. You enjoyed coordinating your fingers and breathing to play those first notes of the scale. Or you might remember how it felt to hit the major milestone of mastering your part in a song. Finally getting that piece of music down pat, from start to finish.

Music creates a powerful, positive mindset when you listen and especially when you learn it. Music education helps build a foundation for future success, something that all students should have access to.

Over the years, Walker|West with support from community and funding partners have been working to change the trajectory of young people through music education. This is the cornerstone of our mission, and we’re ready to keep it going!


• 2019-2020 School Year: 34 students at 2 Sites
• 2020-2021 School Year: 262 students at 1 site (online)
• 2021-2022 School Year: 170 students at 2 sites



Muhkuhi (center) is an active member of our youth violin ensemble, led by instructor Earl Ross.

When you want to know about the future, we feel it’s best to ask those who will help shape it. We checked in with accomplished youth violinist, budding photographer, and long time Walker|West student Muhkuhi about where she thinks we’re headed.


I’m excited to work with new people. We (string students) have gotten to work with some great composers and musicians.


Before the ensemble it used to just be playing solo on the strings recitals, with the ensemble we play together. We get to perform in new places with new people and I didn’t have as many opportunities to do that before. I get nervous playing solo because… well, that’s just me, but in Kamoinge everyone is playing something different. But then it all comes together as one piece.


During the school year we are mostly all practicing on our own. We all have different schedules, but once in a while–like in the summer when we are practicing for the youth symphony we will work together. Sometimes it’s annoying and they don’t listen, but
other times it’s nice to hear what we can play together.

Sometimes we’ll play old duets that we’ve played before. We can always hear each other practicing and it really motivates me to keep practicing.

Walker|West youth ensembles like our Youth Jazz Ensemble and our Kamoinge String Ensemble have opened for, and accompanied professional musicians at the Twin Cities Jazz Fest, Selby Avenue Jazz Fest, Landmark Center, and other local
places. Most recently our youth string ensemble accompanied PaviElle French at the world premiere of “The SOVEREIGN Suite”, an original work which debuted in 2022.



Ernest Bisong, long time Walker|West teaching artist (who originated our Summer Jazz Violin Workshop), stopped to chat with us about all things Walker|West.


Long before I came here, I was teaching classical violin in Nigeria, but really wanted to branch out and see what else was out there. I wanted to check out other methods that were non-traditional, especially for string teaching. And so that’s how I wound up here. I had an uncle that was living in Virginia and I came to do a workshop with Dan O’ Connor – I just had to pay for the airfare.

I auditioned at McNally-Smith and they said we’ll pay for you to come study with us. That’s how I got connected to St. Paul. From there, I connected with Solomon Parham, and he introduced me to Walker|West. From there I started teaching individual lessons and teaching at summer camps.


I think the next chapter is going to be a game-changer. I’m super excited about our Digital Music program. As a team we take a very innovative approach, incorporating beat-making, songwriting and the use of “real” instruments. I’m looking forward to our students and teaching artists having access to more professional
grade equipment and programs for making their own music–something tangible to bring home.

Another thing is more master classes and concerts to bring in and support the best talent around!

With the Summer Jazz Violin camp, I’m really focusing on highlighting string players across the Twin Cities–we’ve got people doing some really cool things.


There’s a few things I’m spearheading, on the different teams that I’m involved with. For the strings program, I’m working on creating a repertoire, a master list of compositions for students, just a huge well to pull from. I’d love to continue growing the jazz violin program into a huge thing that everyone wants to be a part of. There’s just so much to explore in using improvisational styles and techniques on this classic instrument.

This is the second year of the workshop, it was 3 days the first year–but this year, it’s going to be a whole week of broadening the possibilities on violin. I’m hoping to help grow our programs
into something with greater recognition both statewide and nationally.