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Notes from the Walker|West Music Academy String Department

The Walker West Music Academy String Department and Kamoinge Strings officially ended its 2023 – 2024 season with a series of performances during the week of Juneteenth and its annual string retreat one week later on Saturday June 29. What a season it was! As we celebrate Independence Day (July 4), Bastille Day (July 14) and National Ice Cream Month this July we look back on a highly productive and transformative year for the department and the ensemble.

We divided our string recitals by studios this year for the first time. We outgrew our combined recitals  with all string studios and had to do something to shorten them. With an increase in our student  enrollment AND the increase in average length of pieces as our more advanced students progressed to more complex works, string recitals were exceeding the two-hour mark. Parents and students were  not too keen on the separation. As a community forged through our unified recitals the decision to split the studios in order to make the string recitals more manageable was not easy. Although the transition was smooth, we struggle to find opportunities for our students and families to gather at single events. Kamoinge Strings’ performances will likely have to play a larger role in bringing the department together.

Speaking of Kamoinge, the ensemble registered an extraordinary sixteen events for various organizations and venues. Most of them new partners! A quick recap of the ensemble’s 2023/2024 season performances include:

  1. Sphinx Virtuosi Pre-concert at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts sponsored by the Schubert Club
  2. Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers Gala at the Filmore – Minneapolis
  3. The Bell Museum gallery performances for the opening of “Secrets of the Forrest” Planetarium Show
  4. National Association of Counties (NaCO) Executive Officers Gathering at the Landmark Center
  5. Annual Holiday Concert at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer
  6. Kappa Alpha Psi Founder’s Day Dinner (Ladies of Kamoinge)
  7. MLK Day Governor’s Reception at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
  8. Night of Black Excellence with the Timberwolves at the Target Center (Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”)
  9. Stringocracy Project Concert at Prospect Park United Methodist Church (funded in part by a grant from the Paul R. Judy Center at the Eastman School of Music)
  10. Celebrating Black Excellence Day at with MN United Soccer at Allianz Field
  11. Walker West Benefit at Pat and Gary Sauer’s House
  12. Annual Walker West Music Academy’s Honors Recital
  13. Juneteenth Celebration at Rondo Plaza (Ladies of Kamoinge)
  14. MN Humanities Center Juneteenth Breakfast with Bakari Sellers
  15. Twin Cities Jazz Festival Youth Stage at Saint City
  16. Baccalaureate Service at Camphor United Methodist Church

Congratulations to Kamoinge Strings and the talented musicians who comprise the ensemble! Not  only did our young musicians perform at these events, but they also performed in their respective  Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies (GTCYS) and Minnesota Youth Symphonies (MYS)  orchestras. Students also participated in Artaria Chamber Music School and a couple of the  students who play band instruments also performed in their school bands. These are amazingly  dedicated students! With that, I would be remised if I didn’t THANK their parents and all those in  their family that helped these students get to rehearsals and performances all while encouraging them to practice with their scales, etudes, and solo pieces. And to our string faculty, Ernest Bisong, Patty Ryan, Ted Olsen and Earl Ross who worked with the students in their lessons and during Kamoinge rehearsals and performances, THANK YOU! It really does take a village!!

The feedback from our partners and audiences was fantastic. Thank you for your interest and your  support of our students!

In the spirit of community, history and legacy, the string department and Walker West Music Academy  also celebrate the Rondo Neighborhood of Saint Paul this month during the week-long Rondo Days  (July 15 – July 20). Rondo represents the largest and most historic African American community in  the state’s capital city. From this community sprung the academy itself and many of the state’s most  renowned Black musicians, scholars, artists, and educators. The academy honors this legacy each  year with its Rondo Community Music Series, which is coordinated by the string department’s very  own, Ernest Bisong. As we look back on our season from last year, we congratulate the department’s  role in shepherding this concert series and the coordinate panel discussions added this past season to provide context to the performances while highlighting the centrality of Rondo and its inspiration  on the featured artists.

As we look forward to the 2024/2025 season we anticipate an equally exciting year. We are already working hard at developing program themes and selecting music for Kamoinge Strings. We are making plans to expand our string programs to meet the needs of our students and families as we make room for growth in our student enrollment. Please visit the Walker West Music Academy’s website at to register for lessons, learn about upcoming events  and to donate to the string department. Without the support from YOU, our partners, fans and  community, we cannot provide the music education and opportunities our students so well deserve.

Happy summer, lots of ice cream, and many THANKS for a great season!

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