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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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