Ernest Bisong, long time Walker|West teaching artist (who originated our Summer Jazz Violin Workshop), stopped to chat with us about all things Walker|West.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO WALKER|WEST?
Long before I came here, I was teaching classical violin in Nigeria, but really wanted to branch out and see what else was out there. I wanted to check out other methods that were non-traditional, especially for string teaching. And so that’s how I wound up here. I had an uncle that was living in Virginia and I came to do a workshop with Dan O’ Connor – I just had to pay for the airfare.
I auditioned at McNally-Smith and they said we’ll pay for you to come study with us. That’s how I got connected to St. Paul. From there, I connected with Solomon Parham, and he introduced me to Walker|West. From there I started teaching individual lessons and teaching at summer camps.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED FOR IN THE NEXT CHAPTER OF
I think the next chapter is going to be a game-changer. I’m super excited about our Digital Music program. As a team we take a very innovative approach, incorporating beat-making, songwriting and the use of “real” instruments. I’m looking forward to our students and teaching artists having access to more professional
grade equipment and programs for making their own music–something tangible to bring home.
Another thing is more master classes and concerts to bring in and support the best talent around!
With the Summer Jazz Violin camp, I’m really focusing on highlighting string players across the Twin Cities–we’ve got people doing some really cool things.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR ROLE IN WALKER|WEST’S FUTURE?
There’s a few things I’m spearheading, on the different teams that I’m involved with. For the strings program, I’m working on creating a repertoire, a master list of compositions for students, just a huge well to pull from. I’d love to continue growing the jazz violin program into a huge thing that everyone wants to be a part of. There’s just so much to explore in using improvisational styles and techniques on this classic instrument.
This is the second year of the workshop, it was 3 days the first year–but this year, it’s going to be a whole week of broadening the possibilities on violin. I’m hoping to help grow our programs
into something with greater recognition both statewide and nationally.