Archive for May, 2020

Walker|West Pursues Bold New Vision

Walker West Music Academy Pursues a Bold New Vision

A summary of the 2020-2023 strategic plan and the full document are available for review.

Walker West Music Academy is making one of the largest changes in its 32-year history. We are refocusing the organization on making a bigger difference in the lives of families and students who are most in need.

Drawing upon our decades of  music-teaching experience and the power of music education to enhance cognitive development, Walker|West will work to address community needs, including:

  • The African-American achievement gap
  • Brain development in infants and toddlers
  • Social isolation and cognitive decline in senior citizens

The goal is to become an organization that not only teaches music but also changes lives.

“We will continue to welcome students of all ages and backgrounds, but we’ll focus our recruitment efforts and new programming on helping those who are most in need in our community,” said Braxton Haulcy, Executive Director. “The research is clear. Music education benefits people of all ages, from infants to the elderly, and we are dedicating ourselves to using that power for good.”

The new direction is the result of a year-long strategic planning process that included input from stakeholders ranging from Walker|West students, parents and faculty members to St. Paul Mayor and former Walker|West student Melvin Carter. The refocus involves more collaboration with other organizations and taking programming outside of our Selby Avenue facility and into the community.

Following are some of the new or expanded programs associated with this change in focus:

  • Group music classes in keyboards and African drumming taught by Walker|West instructors at St. Paul’s Barack & Michelle Obama Elementary School, where 95 percent of the students are youth of color. 
  • An early childhood  music education program for parents and their pre-school children, including babies as young as six weeks old, taught at Walker|West by an instructor from MacPhail Music Center.
  • Digital Goes Live: A Pathway to Success provides digital and acoustic music instruction, Pro Tools certification, industry connections and a pathway to a stable career in the audio production field for students at St. Paul’s High School of Recording Arts and Walker|West students.
  • An expanded, full-day summer camp that includes music and movement. The camp is a collaboration betweenWalker|West and the Network for the Development of Children of African Descent (NdCAD). 
  • Walker|West’s Amazing Grace Chorus is a dementia-friendly choir open to any senior citizens in the community.
  • Programming specifically for elders, including group and individual lessons, recitals and opportunities for music listening, performance and inter-generational exchange and the development of an instrumental-ensemble group.

(Note: Some of the above programs are on hold or have moved to virtual platforms due to the pandemic.)

“When more people are engaged in positive, life-affirming activities that can help them overcome barriers and develop the skills needed for success, everyone is better off,” Haulcy said.

A History of Teaching Music, Changing Lives

Walker|West was established in 1988 to provide a safe place for children in St. Paul’s Summit University neighborhood to engage in a positive, life-affirming learning environment. Our founders, Rev. Carl Walker and Grant West, taught music and built self-confidence in students who often didn’t have many people encouraging their success.

Walker|West’s teaching techniques are designed to give students an immediate sense of accomplishment and success. After the first lesson, students are able to perform simple melodies and/or rhythms. Following in the founders’ footsteps, today’s teaching artists become mentors to their students.

Many Walker|West students have gone on to receive degrees from prestigious music colleges, including the Manhattan School of Music, Juilliard, and Berklee College of Music. Former students include Grammy winners and nominees, and many professional musicians. Just as important are the Walker|West students who did not pursue a career in music, but developed a sense of confidence, a love of learning and the habit of hard work in the positive, supportive community that is Walker|West.

Walker|West is supported in part by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board