Blog Newsletter


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.

Blog Newsletter

Walker West String Department

With the New Year comes opportunities to share great news and inspiring stories about the work we do and the students and families we serve. Starting with the January Newsletter we begin a new feature, called String Stories highlighting the activities of our Walker West String Department.

For generations the academy has been known for its Keyboard, Wind, Vocal and Jazz Programs thanks to its co-founders, Rev. Carl Walker and Grant West, legendary pianists and music instructors in the Twin Cities particularly adept at Gospel and Jazz music. And band music teachers like Felix James and the late Tom Zosel who established the academy’s first jazz ensembles. The jazz ensemble program includes now Walker West alumni, Jack Breen (horns) and Kevin Washington (drums and percussion), with their other gifted jazz teaching artists-colleagues, Kavyesh Kavyraj (piano), Solomon Parham (trumpet), Ted Olsen (bass) to name just a few.

Although classes in string instruments were offered in the first few years, its program was often overshadowed by the other departments. Many in our community never knew that Walker West offered lessons in violin, viola, cello and the double bass. Most still do not know that the academy has a string department. This new feature seeks to rectify this oversight by providing information about students, recitals, concerts, and our string ensemble. If you read the December 2023 Newsletter, you would have seen two items about recent performances by Kamoinge Strings: a pre-concert performance for Sphinx Virtuosi at the Ordway, and gallery performances at the Bell Museum for the opening of their new planetarium show, “Secrets of the Forest”.

Each month, we will showcase brief stories from our String Department in the newsletter and direct you on occasion to longer pieces on our Walker West website. We hope to inspire you as you learn more about what we do with our students and families. And we hope these stories will encourage you to attend string department events featuring our students, staff and alumni. Our String Department currently is comprised of four instructors – Earl Ross (violin/viola), Ernest Bisong (violin/viola), Patty Ryan (cello) and Ted Olsen (bass). Our accompanists are Franco Holder and Jack Barrett.

Now onto the news…oops…music…


Why, Kamoinge Strings, of course!

As we look forward to 2024 events, we can’t forget the incredible performances of our string ensemble, Kamoinge Strings during the holiday season. The last half of November 2023 through December provided several important opportunities for our string students to showcase their talents at high-profile events.

On November Saturday 18, Kamoinge Strings performed at The Fillmore in the North Loop section of Minneapolis, near Target Field. The ensemble was invited to perform at the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers (MABL) Scholarship Gala. The theme was “Celebrating Black Excellence”. With nearly 1000 bedazzled guests, the Kamoinge performed music as attendees arrived and networked. An organization established to promote and support the professional development of Black lawyers, judges, and law students in Minnesota, it has deep ties to the area’s legal community and the state’s largest law schools. The event was a blast for the students who hung out it the upstairs green rooms and marveled at the names of performers on the wall backstage who’d played at the Fillmore. If we play there again, we’ll have to see if Kamoinge Strings has been added! According to the folks at the event, Kamoinge Strings lived up to the gala’s theme.

Twelve days later, on Thursday November 30, Kamoinge Strings regaled guests at the National Association of Counties (NACo) Executive Committee convening in Saint Paul. County Board of Commissioners from across the country including an especially enthusiastic commissioner of Kamoinge’s performance from Montana gathered on the fourth floor of the historic Landmark Center. The coordinators of the event sought out Walker West to provide entertainment by youth musicians. The ensemble was happy to do it. Kamoinge has performed in the past at the Landmark, but in the Atrium on the first level. For this event, the ensemble performed in one of the courtrooms. To perform in an old courtroom with beautiful wooden floors and high barreled ceilings is a dream for a sting ensemble. The resonance of the rooms is made for this instrumentation. Kamoinge represented the school and Ramsey County well. The students performed an array of music from its extensive repertoire that almost always includes, We Shall Overcome or Lift Every Voice and Sing. These specific songs are performed by the students to honor the mission and legacy of Walker West, an institution, founded by African Americans. The commissioners were “wowed” by the poise and sound of the ensemble. As Ramsey County Commissioner Mary Jo McGuire, current president of NACo stated in her thank you note, “You are all amazing! I really appreciate you and your music!” Thank you, Commissioner McGuire and all of the Ramsey County Commissioners who represent our community. We appreciated the opportunity to share our music.

We ended the year on Saturday December 9 at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in St Paul where we performed our annual Holiday Concert. This year was the first time we featured Kamoinge Strings almost entirely. In past concerts, solos and duets would open the first half and Kamoinge performed selections in the second half. For our December 2023 concert, we had just one student provide a prelude selection and the rest of the concert were works performed by the ensemble.

When the lights went down in the Sanctuary, the students lined up along the outside of the pews and commenced with the Ukrainian holiday favorite, Carol of the Bells. The audience was surrounded by the sound of strings. From there the students moved to front of the where the assembled to perform Bach’s, Jesus bleibet meine Freude (Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring) accompanied by Franco Holder on the pipe organ. The lights were still down, allowing the just the glow of the blue-lighted Christmas Tree to shine in the sanctuary. The concert was magical! Kamoinge Strings continued with Corelli’s Christmas Concerto Grosso with violin solos by Rahel Hashel and Kamau Rodriguez-Pegg, Astor Piazolla’s Ave Maria, a Klezmer piece, and A Christmas Song with jazz improvisation solo by Ernest Bisong, to name just a few. The concert was filled with familiar and not so familiar works for strings. Something for everyone. When concluded the concert as we do every year with arrangement of Silent Night where the audience gets to participate These concerts are among our most popular and most fun. Students and teachers wear holiday hats and reindeer horns as they play to humanity for peace, joy and good cheer!

We hope you had a wonderful holiday season. And we will look forward to seeing you at our future concerts!


  • Kamoinge Strings at the Ordway Music Center | MLK Reception (January 15, 2024)
  • Kamoinge Strings | Winter Concert (March 9, 2024)


Congratulations to the Walker West String Department which received a grant from one of the premier music schools in the country.

The Paul R Judy Center for Innovation and Research at the EASTMAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC will provide support funding for a project designed by the department to feature Kamoinge Strings, called Stringocracy.

The project will assist in building momentum and support across communities of color, especially the Black communities, to participate in voter registration and the presidential election. The featured ensemble, Kamoinge Strings, highlights and re-enforces the programmatic ideas of identity, democratic expression, social justice, and activism through the power of the ballot box. The project will most impact our students through their understanding of how music can be used to support civic engagement. We will know that we have been successful when our students and community are motivated to participate more directly in the election process and to correlate this work with the creative process of music. The skills engendered through this immersive process, we think, will teach participating students important tools for how to use their unique voices to affect change in their respective communities. Rehearsals for the first big event on March 9 will start in January. Students and instructors will work to create a program that includes music from the baroque period to hip hop that will convey the democratic musical expression of call and response and improvisation.


December Newsletter

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

When: Fridays at 10 AM or 11 AM | December 1 – February 2
When: Saturdays at 10 AM or 11 AM | December 2 – February 3
School Closed:  December 29 & 30 and January 5 & 6

She Rock Open Jam

Join us for an open jam for girls, women, nonbinary and trans musicians of all ages! Sing or play with the She Rock house band, or just relax and enjoy the show! Drums, keyboards, amps, mics are provided.

Bring your own guitar, bass or drum sticks! Questions? Email or

When: Saturday, December 16th from 2pm to 5pm
Where: 760 Selby Avenue


Thank you to our Women in Jazz Initiative sponsor, Jazz88, for your support, which makes this programming possible.

Support Walker West This Holiday Season

As you consider your year-end giving, we invite you to consider supporting Walker West. Give the gift of music this season to sustain music education that is rooted in community, and/or our capital campaign vision to expand programs, build capacity, and create a state-of-the-art facility.

Conversation and Q&A with Robert Glasper

“Jazz is the mother of hip hop.” Glasper     

Join us for an open conversation and Q&A with five time Grammy-Award Winning artist, Robert Glasper. Coupled with his breathtaking jazz piano canon, his genre-defying collaborations with artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Herbie Hancock, Kenny Garrett, Carly Simon, Erykah Badu, and Nora Jones, among others, have solidified his place as a musical luminary. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to gain insights and inspiration from one of the most versatile and influential figures in contemporary music. Open to songwriters, poets, beat makers, and musicians of all instruments, genres, and ages.

For questions contact Student Services, or

When: Sunday, December 17th from 4pm to 5pm
Where: 760 Selby Avenue

January 17th RCMS Concert featuring Kavy plays Jamal

Rondo Community Music Series

Save Your Spot

Kavyesh Kaviraj is a pianist, composer and arranger from India. Although primarily a jazz pianist, he is known for his versatility as a musician; thanks to his experience in different musical climates he is closely involved with settings of many different genres and styles.

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

Rondo Community Music Series Panel Discussion

Join us online for discussions with musicians, vocalists and spoken word artists that have connections to Walker West, the Twin Cities and the Rondo Community to share thoughts about music and this community’s rich legacy as a training ground for musicians.

Wednesday, January 10 at 7:00 pm

Topic: The legacy of Ahmad Jamal discussion led by Kavyesh Kavyraj and Jack BarrettWednesday, January 31 at 7:00 pm

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

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

Students and families enjoy a performance by Experience Jazz faculty on the first day of program at High School for Recording Arts, October 7, 2023.

Experience Jazz Kicks off with Record Enrollment

This fall, Walker West launched a new ensemble program called “Experience Jazz” (EJ) in partnership with High School for Recording Arts (HSRA), where students rehearse together at HSRA’s St. Paul campus, in their state-of-the-art “Studio 4.” Originally a program of Minnesota Jazz Education/Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education started in 2017, this year’s program saw record enrollment at WWMA! Over 12 weeks, 20+ students of various skill levels meet on Saturdays to make music, hone their skills playing in an ensemble, and record music together. Faculty member, Kevin Washington says, ”What EJ is doing is teaching students to be in the studio at a very young age. Being in the studio is a whole other world, a completely different experience, and I love how patient and flexible the group is with each other. You gotta start somewhere!” This year’s program will culminate in a final performance on Jan 20, along with other WW jazz ensembles. Keep an eye out for the show announcement!

WWMA Teaching Artist, Sowah Mensah, shares teaching techniques and approaches with SCASD teachers during Professional Development Day, September 15, 2023.

Partnership with St. Cloud Area School District is in Full Swing

In 2022, St. Cloud Area School District 742 (SCASD) invited Walker West Music Academy  (WWMA) to assist with developing programming to address the limited Somali and African American student enrollment in their music programs. Walker West has since begun a 3 year partnership with SCASD to create and implement strategies, residencies, student-based programs and professional development opportunities that tackle challenges related to this issue. Now in year 2, this project has accomplished the following: 

  • Formation of a 14-member advisory council of artists, educators and community leaders from St. Cloud, St. Paul and WWMA to plan and implement programming. 
  • Four residencies with WWMA teaching artists serving over 350 SCASD 5th grade students 
  • Two Professional Development workshops with SCASD Music teachers, led by WWMA teaching artists and faculty.

Planning for year 3 is currently underway, shifting focus to SCACD’s robust infrastructure of monthly gatherings with various communities of color. Our intention for Year 3 is to create new connections with families from these communities, and creating programming that welcomes and supports participation in SCASD music education opportunities. 


On Sunday, October 15, Kamoinge Strings performed their first concert of the season at the Ordway Music Center in downtown St. Paul. The premiere string ensemble of Walker West set the mood for the audience attending the Sphinx Virtuosi concert. The ensemble comprises 12 violinists ages 12 to 18 years from our string studios. In addition to Kamoige, these diverse and accomplished students participate in the highly competitive Minnesota Youth Symphonies, Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies, and the Artaria Chamber Music School. The event was sponsored by the Schubert Club and entailed the ensemble sharing and in many cases, introducing their artistry to the Sphinx Virtuosi audience and personnel. Comprised of 18 accomplished Black and Latinx artists, Sphinx Virtuosi is an internationally acclaimed, dynamic, and inspiring professional self-conducted chamber orchestra that serves as the flagship performing entity of the Sphinx Organization – the leading social justice non-profit dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.

Faculty News

The debut album of Kinetic, a conductorless string ensemble, reached #1 on the Billboard Traditional Classical Charts during the week of November 18.  Walker|West cello faculty, Patty Ryan, is a founding member of the ensemble and plays on every track of the award winning album.


KEEPIN’ ON kicks off the holiday season with a bundle of three podcasts.

Listen Here

String Department Holiday Recital

Features all studios and Kamoinge String Ensemble

When: Saturday, December 9th at 6pm 
Where: Lutheran Church of the Redeemer


November Newsletter

November 11 RCMS Concert featuring WDP Crew ft. Robert Robinson

Rondo Community Music Series

Save Your Spot

Duncan & Robinson return to the series for the 4th time. We can’t wait of the sounds of these incredible artists hit the airwaves again. This duo, along with background from the WDP singers will perform gospel, jazz and R&B. As Mr. Duncan promised, “you’ll be inspired and you won’t walk out the same.

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

November 12 Secrets from a Forest Special Guests: Kamoinge Strings of Walker West Music Academy

Mention “Walker|West” at the ticketing desk for $5 off gallery admission for adults and $6 off for youth 3-21

Join us for an in-gallery performance by Kamoinge Strings from Walker West Music Academy.

When: Sunday, November 12 | 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM
Where: Bell Museum | 2088 Larpenteur Avenue W, St Paul, 55113

Recommended for all ages

November 13 Masterclass & Concert: Steve Hirsh and the Sparks Quartet

We are excited to announce a special event that will enrich the musical journey of our talented students. On November 13th, Walker West will be hosting Steve Hirsh and the Sparks Quartet, featuring renowned musicians William Parker, Eri Yamamoto, Chad Fowler, and Steve Hirsh, for a captivating masterclass and concert.

When: November 13 | Masterclass at 4 PM, Concert at 7 PM

Who: Masterclass is open to all musicians, feel free to bring your instrument. Concert open to students, family and general public.

Where: 760 Selby Ave, St. Paul, MN

For questions please contact or 651-224-2929.

Registration Open Adult Group Voice Class

Sing in a group setting, and learn from professional vocal and choral instructors. Participants will be guided through seven 45 minute sessions each Saturday in vocal basics, choral technique, part singing, operating in harmonies, and “Circlesongs”.

When: Saturdays at 3 PM | October 28 – December 16, 2023

Where: 650 Marshall Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104

Who: Ages 18+, all skill levels

Libby Turner (Voice Department Chair)
Sarah Greer and Carl Clomon (Guest Instructors)
William Duncan, Liam Vance, and Kevin Jackson (Voice Department Faculty)

Cost: $30 per class, $210.00 for full 7 weeks

For questions, contact or 651-224-2929.

Registration is open for Session 2 of Homies In Harmony with Auntie Jayanthi (8 Weeks)

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:

When: Fridays at 10 AM or 11 AM | December 1 – February 2
When: Saturdays at 10 AM or 11 AM | December 2 – February 3
School Closed:  December 29 & 30 and January 5 & 6

December 2 RCMS Concert featuring Katia Cardenas Ensemble

Rondo Community Music Series

Save Your Spot

Luminous, multi-genre vocalist and international touring artist Katia Cardenas inspires audiences with her sultry, soulful voice and infectious energy and presence. Possessing an impeccable range and dynamic style, Katia grew up in a musical family, and her professional training came largely “on the job,” performing throughout high school with her mother’s Bay Area bands and collaborating with her Seattle-based father on numerous recording projects.

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

December 8 Shed G Comedy Series

Micheal Prince & Piper The Comedian

When: December 8 | Doors Open at 7 PM
Where: New Hope Cinema Grill | 2749 Winnetka Ave North | Cash App $ShedG $20

On Saturday, November 4th, members and staff of the AGC Chorus for Dementia Awareness at Walker | West presented and participated in the Mayo Clinic’s 2023 Conference on Brain Health and Dementia. The conference aimed to provide attendees with an opportunity to explore emotional wellness for oneself and the knowledge to positively impact emotional wellness for those living with dementia.

The University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC) in North Minneapolis was one of seven regional watch sites for the conference that centered personal, cultural perspectives and engaged approximately 40 community participants.  

Presenters and facilitators included those living with dementia, care partners, healthcare professionals, artists, advocates, and researchers who are all dedicated to this topic. The event was presented in partnership with the #AlzheimersAssociation and #AARP. The watch site partners also included the AGC Chorus at Walker | West, the Alter Program for dementia awareness, the University Center for Healthy Aging and Innovation, and UROC.


October Newsletter

Experience Jazz

Starts this Saturday, sign up today!

Experience Jazz is a genre-bridging music ensemble program for instrumentalists (looking for bass and saxophone), vocalists, rappers, DJs and other aspiring musical artists. A partnership with High School for Recording Arts, this innovative program is an incubator for middle and high school musicians to learn, play and compose new music together in the studio. Led by renowned local performers and passionate educators: LA Buckner, DJ Mickey Breeze, Peter Goggin, and Cody LeDuc.

When: October 7 – January 20, Saturday Mornings 11:00 AM – 1:30 PM
Who: Youth Musicians of all backgrounds, grades 7-12. No prior jazz experience required.
Where: High School of Recording Arts

Rondo Community Music Series

Upcoming Concert: October 21, featuring Kevin Washington and RA Spirit

Save Your Spot

Kevin Washington has been part of this series since its inception, with his group RA Spirit performing in the 2021 series as well. You won’t want to miss their return. Kevin is among the most versatile of jazz musicians-as adept at playing straight ahead tunes as he is incorporating Afro-Latin rhythms on hip-hop into his sets. He has studied under legendary drummer Max Roach and has played with top jazz performers such as saxophonist Antonio Hart and James Carter. Kevin is a Walker|West instructor.

Join us live on our Facebook page, YouTube, attend in person by registering on EventBrite or watch through Crowdcast! If you miss the live event, you can watch the replay and our other past events here. In order to watch with us in our virtual music hall, be sure to click ‘Save My Spot’ when you get to Crowdcast, to get updates about this show, including a reminder just before show begins.
RSVP today to reserve your spot virtually on Crowdcast or Attend In-Person by registering on EventBrite!

Walker West at The Dakota

Join us for an evening of music on October 30

Enjoy music performances from students and faculty of Walker West and a short program to update attendees on the vision and progress of Walker West’s Power of Music Campaign. Performers will include Kevin Washington, Ernest Bisong, Ted Olsen, Kavyesh Kaviraj, Solomon Parham, Jack Breen, Cody Steinmann, and Peter Goggin, in various configurations. T. Mychael Rambo will emcee the event.

When: Monday, October 30, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Where: The Dakota | 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403

Tickets are now on sale! Tickets are $20 and are available on The Dakota’s website. Dinner and drink service will be available for purchase.


Register for Fall Semester at Walker|West

Walker|West Newsletter: September 2023

Homies in Harmony with Auntie Jayanthi

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.

This early childhood program is a way to make musical memories with your little one from the very beginning of their life! Join us to learn about our peaceful instincts, self esteem, empathy, history and responsibility.

When: 5 and 8 week sessions starting September 29th or 30th
Who: Children ages 0 – 6 and their caregivers
Where: 760 Selby Avenue

Make Music Rooted in Jazz, Blues, Pop and Hip-Hop

Experience Jazz is a genre-bridging music ensemble program for instrumentalists, vocalists, rappers, DJs and other aspiring musical artists. A partnership with High School for Recording Arts, this innovative program is an incubator for middle and high school musicians to learn, play and compose new music together in the studio.

When: October 7 – January 20, Saturday Mornings 11:00 AM – 1:30 PM
Who: Youth Musicians of all backgrounds, grades 7-12. No prior jazz experience required.
Where: High School of Recording Arts

Rondo Community Music Series

Our first event for 2023/2024 RCMS happening September 30th! New this year, we will have panel discussions via Zoom starting September 27th. Check out more details on this year’s artists and the full lineup. Learn more

Explore Beat-Making and Mixing

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. Enrolling now!

When: Tuesday and Thursdays, 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Who: Students Ages 13 – 21 for both beginners and advanced
Where: In-person at 760 Selby Avenue

Keepin’ On looks at the journey of aging through the power of music. Music helps us experience the world through creativity, by soothing our souls, uplifting our spirits and connecting us with our cultural roots. Listen to the podcast

Hosted by Vanne Owens Hayes, presented by Walker|West.

Lesson and Ensemble Registration Open

Individual Music Lessons (K – Adult)
Fall semester happening now through January 27, 2024. Register

Jazz Ensembles (13 – Adult)
Whether you are a beginner or an advanced player, we have an ensemble that will challenge you and help you grow as a musician. Students rehearse in 1-hour weekly sessions. Join us for youth ensembles Monday or Tuesdays, and adult ensembles on Wednesdays. Learn more

Walker West News and Events

Ujamaa Partnership

Starting in Fall 2023, Walker West Music Academy will partner with Ujamaa Place by serving Ujamaa men through WWMA’s Digital Music Production program. Read the blog

Amazing Grace Chorus

The Amazing Grace Chorus was featured on a CNN segment “Champions for Change”. Stay tuned for updates on AGC’s webpage about the upcoming watch party, more details coming soon.


May Newsletter

Accents & Illuminations

Walker|West Newsletter: May 2023

Sending peace after this Memorial weekend. We hope you honored the memories of the fallen in the best way you know how. For many of us, that’s something that smells like flavorful cookouts, soundtracked with cultural classics required to be on everyone’s playlist. Some of those songs might feature talent grown and developed at Walker|West, which has been a cultural hub for 35 years. In this newsletter, we’re saying thank you to our families, funding partners, and everyone who supports our organization. We’re thankful for your investment of time, tuition, and absorbing the many stories that have emerged. To convey our gratitude, and why your gifts, and partnership mean so much to us, allow us to reach back, and provide some context. Get ready to groove, as we invite you to gather with us this summer, and prepare for all that Walker|West Music Academy has to come.

Let’s start from the top

The Makings of Walker|West

Walker|West began as a studio for young African-Americans of the Rondo Community to foster new paths to success. Founded in 1988, by Rev. Carl Walker and Grant West. The original Walker|West Music Academy location was 777 Selby Ave . These passionate men with their commitment to the church, and love for music, provided instrument & vocal lessons, and a myriad of programs over the years. The student population of their humble non-profit grew larger, moving into a bigger building at 760 Selby Avenue in 2014 . Striking art by Ta-Coumba T. Aiken decorated the exterior in 2018, and it was a beautifully welcomed update. We’re now five years past, our lease at our current space is almost up, and we’re ready to grow through music more than ever.

The Time is Now

Moving at the right pace to find the perfect place

One goal for our the Walker|West team, is to build upon the legacy of this organization. With that, comes the need for a new space to gather, and explore through music. Since 2021, we have opened our capital campaign, seeking funding to expand our programming, and update our learning and gathering space. Earlier this year, we integrated Minnesota Jazz Education programs with ours, closing the gap between our organizations, and creating even more room for our Walker|West Without Walls initiative. We are re-imagining our Digital Music Program thanks to a major contribution from the NBA Foundation, and a partnership with Hamline University. Music education is necessary for our people of all ages and backgrounds, and the methods and practices of Walker|West continues to inspire, and elevate members of our communities.

So, on the road to expansion, and sourcing capital campaign funding, our ED and team came across the future home of Walker|West Music Academy. The location: 650 Marshall Ave in St. Paul, former site of the Wilder Foundation. Since last year, our Capital Campaign has included a request from the MN State Legislature for funding to cover the cost of the purchase and renovations of our community cultural hub’s new home base. With state senators & representatives on our side, and right before an omnibus bill & potential grant opportunity would come to fruition, There was “a match made in heaven” with Model Cities, St. Paul, who extended an opportunity we could not miss. Through yet another magnificent partnership, Model Cities and LISC have provided a 2.5 million dollar loan. The loan is in the form of a purchase-resell transaction, which essentially means Model Cities has purchased the property on our behalf. We intend to purchase the property from Model Cities now that we have been approved for a $4.1 Million Direct Appropriation from the State of Minnesota. The generosity and timing of this transaction allowed Walker|West to close on the purchase in April 2023.

Coming up!

Amazing Grace Chorus Spring Concert

You are invited to gather with our elders on June 11th for “Keepers of the Culture”. Enjoy the gospel sounds of our jewel Amazing Grace Chorus. Take some time to learn about healthy aging, especially if someone in your family suffers from memory ailments as they have progressed in life. The event will be held at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. Festivities begin at 4pm.

Spend your summer with us!

Register for our remaining summer camps

There is still time to register for summer music camps at Walker|West. This year, we’re offering vital and unique options for your students.

-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.


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.