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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!

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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


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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.

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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…

WHAT DO LAWYERS, A MONTANA COMMISSIONER AND REINDEER HORNS HAVE IN COMMON?

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!

UPCOMING EVENTS

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

DEMOCRACY IN MUSIC – THE STRING DEPARTMENT RECEIVES GRANT FROM THE EASTMAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC

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.

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Ribbon Cutting Event

You’re invited

for music and a presentation from

Walker West Music Academy & Representatives from Schmitt Music.

Join us for a very special ribbon cutting for our new

STEINWAY MODEL D piano

on July 7th, 2023 from 7 pm-8 pm

It’s all happening at the

Walker|West Performance Hall, 760 Selby Ave, St. Paul, MN 55104.

This is the first time in the history of Walker|West, that the organization has obtained brand-new pianos for instruction and performances. The expansion of our organization calls for new energy & instruments that become a part of the stories of our students and staff!

Be the first to hear the fresh notes of our brand-new pianos from our world-class piano instructors! Join us for this one-time event, and find out how you can support the permanence of these instruments at Walker|West. Light refreshments will be provided. This is an all-ages event. No RSVP is necessary.

NOTE: This is a fundraising collaboration with Schmitt Music to support the recent lease/purchase of several Steinway pianos for the school

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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.