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Walker|West is a Regional Cultural Treasure w/ 5 year, unrestricted, major gift

Walker|West is a Regional Cultural Treasure w/ 5 year, unrestricted, major gift

Walker|West was selected as one of 10 #MNCulturalTreasures for 2021. We’re honored to be part of this $12.6M initiative offering new funding for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian American-led arts organizations to acknowledge and honor their remarkable contributions to MN, with funding made possible by a collaboration of the McKnight Foundation, Ford Foundation, the Bush Foundation, and Jerome Foundation.

As our Executive Director, Braxton Haulcy put it: “It’s a straight-up blessing. It couldn’t have come at a better time.”

This multi-year, unrestricted funding will help us invest in operations, strengthen our storytelling about the wonderful things happening at Walker|West, and this major gift leads us into our upcoming Capital Campaign. We are a best in class arts & culture organization that, like many organizations led by Black, Indigenous or people of color, has typically been under-invested. This award provides needed visibility for our decades of work, and is the first of it’s kind for us in our 33 year history. 

“It gets us where we need to go, and it gets us where we deserve to be”

We’re proud to be in the number along with other MN organizations: 

  • American Indian Community Housing Organization
  • Ananya Dance Theatre
  • Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center
  • Juxtaposition Arts
  • Mizna
  • Pangea World Theater
  • Somali Museum of Minnesota
  • Theater Mu
  • Truartspeaks

Read more about our work in the Star Tribune:

Read more about the #MNCulturalTreasures program:

Roderick Cox meets with Walker|West RCMI Fellows 

Roderick Cox meets with Walker|West RCMI Fellows

Even during these unusual times where face masks, social distancing, and remote lessons are the new norm, German-based American conductor,  Roderick Cox and Walker|West RCMI fellows still find ways to connect.

On March 24, Maestro Cox and students from our string program participated in a  meet-up on Zoom. The meet-up was an opportunity for the students to chat with the world-renowned conductor about a wide range of topics centered around music education and performance.

This is the second time the former associate conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra has met with the students. Two years ago Walker|West established a partnership with the Roderick Cox Music Initiative (RCMI) to encourage BIPOC students underrepresented in classical music to consider the path of orchestral training.  Students selected for the program are provided with an array of support that helps smooth the path and mitigate the cost of lessons, instruments, music camps, and other enrichment opportunities.  The RCMI fellows (Walker|West has six currently) and potential future fellows shared with Roderick Cox the pieces they are working on and asked questions about living in different countries and preparing for performances. During the conversation, Roderick shared that he was back in the states for several months preparing Rossini’s opera, “The Barber of Seville” with the San Francisco Opera Company. The performances will take place at a drive-in instead of the opera house.

As Roderick said, “This is something I’ve never done before, but I’m looking forward to the experience”  He explained that the production had to be changed due to COVID. Even the cast, who were supposed to be international, had to be re-cast with American singers to limit COVID risks to the performers.  The opera which is typically sung in the original Italian will be performed in English. This led to a discussion about learning multiple languages when you are young.  The students shared some of the languages they are learning in school and seemed to share Roderick’s appreciation for knowing multiple languages, even if it is hard to do… at any age!

The conversation moved on from there. When asked by a student what the hardest music he’s had to learn, Roderick offered the Dr. Atomic Symphony, by the American composer, John Adams.  The symphony, which is a comment on the development and deployment of the atomic bomb, is hard to describe musically. At one point he shared his screen to play a portion of the “Panic” from the symphony. The students were in agreement…. the music sounded really hard.

Programming such a difficult piece has to be balanced with more familiar, less challenging works to keep the orchestra musicians from revolting. As Roderick explained, “You don’t want the musicians hating you before you even start working with them.”  The students learned a lot about what it takes to be a conductor and musician in classical music. They also learned that even professional musicians can have memory-slips during performances and that things could go awry, but just as we say when preparing for recitals, you keep going on, and often the audience doesn’t know you made a mistake. Roderick Cox, who has performed throughout the USA and in other countries reminded these students that it’s important to practice and to prepare well for your performances, whether they are in the world’s greatest concert halls or in a  Walker|West recital. The hard work of preparing will make a difference in how you perform, but we are all still human, and things happen.

Music can be humbling.

At the end of the meet-up, Roderick offered his continued support to the students and their goals. “I and your teachers want you to be able to dream big and we are here to help you meet those dreams.”

The Roderick Cox Scholarship is used to mitigate the barriers that so often prevent students of color from considering careers as composers, conductors and / or musicians of professional orchestras. The initiative launched in 2019 to create scholarships for Black, Latinx and Native American / Indigenous students who may want to become composers, conductors and/or musicians of professional orchestras.

Read more:

October 2020 Newsletter

Accents & Illuminations Newsletter – October 2020

Below is our Quarterly update from October 2020.

The Twin Cities Roy Hargrove Band at The Rondo Community Music Series this October, rewatch anytime.

Walker|West Accents & Illuminations

October 2020 Newsletter

Resilience Through Community

Exploring the Healing Power of Music and the Strength of Walker|West

Music accompanies movements for change and keeps people connected. Through spirituals, protest songs, and cultural classics the soul of our society is crafted in tune. Whether we seek justice and solidarity, or share a moment with family and friends, music is ever present.

Our organization continues to update our programming and capabilities to ensure the safety of our music learning community. It’s possible to gather, explore, and grow through music no matter our physical location. At Walker|West Music Academy we establish safe, enjoyable, and memorable experiences for all ages and backgrounds.

In this newsletter, you can explore the ways we gather through music and power through the season.

Keep scrolling to catch up with Walker|West!

“Drums. Music. Life.” Listen Anywhere.
Hear Kevin and his family share musical performances and rich cultural history, while highlighting how music is instrumental in positive mental health, especially within the African American experience.

Funding Updates

Walker|West is grateful for continued and renewed support for our mission and programs. Here’s a look at some of the major support we have received this quarter:

  • City of Saint Paul Cultural Star: for General Operations
  • Sharon Garth: for Organizational Growth Through Debt Retirement Matching Initiative
  • The Joan T. Smith Estate
  • MAHADH Fund of HRK Foundation: for General Operations
  • Minnesota State Arts Board: for General Operations and Creative Support
  • Nordson: for the Early Childhood Music program
  • Margaret Perryman
  • Patrick & Aimee Butler Family Foundation: for support through Covid-19 and an investment in technology
  • Roderick Cox Music Initiative

Roderick Cox during a virtual visit to Walker|West.

Special thanks to the Roderick Cox Music Initiative for their focus on Strings and Classical Music for students of color. Roderick Cox Music Initiative Scholarships provide instruments to students in need, as well as funding for further learning opportunities. With the removal of financial barriers, passionate students remain empowered to focus on their journeys and dreams.

To make a major gift contact Braxton Haulcy, Executive Director (



To join our giving community as an one-time or monthly donor visit our website:


Partners in Healing

Walker|West is invested in improving life and inspiring success through music education and music access. We are happy to collaborate with our community partners to explore reflection and healing through art and expression.

Hear Walker|West teaching and performing artist Mr. Duncan’s original piece for Art In This Present Moment –”Only Love Will Last”

The Time is Now

In response to the tragic death of George Floyd and the unrest that followed, The Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, in partnership with the McKnight Foundation initiated “Art in This Present Moment.” 

This initiative supports artists who address social issues with their work. Several organizations including Walker|West were selected to participate. Composer, pianist, and Walker|West teaching and performing artist William E. Duncan was chosen to create and perform an original composition. Mr. Duncan was also interviewed to give his perspective on the importance of art during these times.

Learn More About ‘Art In This Present Moment’


Artists for premiere of “How Many Breaths…” seen from left to right: Lou Bellamy, Sarah Bellamy, Ariana Kim, Steve Heitzeg, and Walker|West’s own Sherine Onukwuwe

Art is the Backbone of Resistance

The premiere of “How Many Breaths? In memory of George Floyd and Countless Others” created by Violinist, Ariana Kim, took place on September 27th in the Walker|West performance hall. Walker|West’s new Executive Assistant, artist, TV host, and anti-bias education specialist Sherine Onukwuwe was invited to moderate the subsequent panel discussion following the premiere. 

Please join us in welcoming Sherine! We are happy to have her on the team.

Read Sherine’s reflections on the healing power of music

Walker|West at Barack and Michelle Obama Elementary School

Music education is a necessary tool in the pursuit of academic excellence. Music learning inspires leaders of tomorrow, promoting brain development and opening space for exploration and artistic expression.

In a new partnership with Barack and Michelle Obama Elementary School, we expand on our mission and highlight the K-5 student voice, despite limited access to music education in public schools. A series of online videos and mindfulness activities combine cultural representation with interviews of musicians and musical demonstrations. The host and narrator of the series is 10 years old and videos are presented via remote learning this 2020 – 2021 school year.

Stay connected as we build “Walker|West without Walls.”

Follow us on social media & join our mailing list for regular updates on programming, performances, students & teaching/performing artists.

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A Space for Everyone

We are proud to teach music to any student no matter their age or background. Music has been proven to increase motor skills, cognition and promotes overall success. We teach music to children as young as one year and individuals over 70 years old. We believe in the power of life-long music learning.

Music for Families lead instructor Ivory Doublette working with a young music learner, during a pre-COVID19 session. Our early childhood program, in partnership with McPhail is currently enrolling.

Music for Families: An Interview with Main Instructor, Ivory Doublette

Ivory Doublette excels as the instructor for our Early Childhood Music Learning Program. To say that she is well-received by the little ones is an understatement. Families find joy in making memories with her each session.

“Being able to have access to YouTube versions of class as well as Zoom sessions helps keep families engaged in a way that works for them. I also think having the option of not commuting for extracurriculars during MN winters is also a bonus!”

For these young students and their families – virtual learning has its perks.

Read Ivory’s full interview on our website

Tom Kellogg sits down at the keyboard with Walker-West founder and instructor Grant Walker. Kellogg is one of many students enrolled in the academy’s new program for aspiring musicians age 55 and older. Photo by Brad Stauffer; Caption by Anne Murphy

Lifelong Music Learning: Walker|West featured in The Villager

“Playing an instrument is good for the brain cells and it’s good for the outlook. It’s so important to have this kind of outlet today. Music is a gift, and lessons are a gift learners can give to themselves.” 

Creating safe and new ways to gather through music is a critical part of bringing hope and healing to our communities. Every generation benefits from the gift of music. This is why we’re proud to provide music lessons for older adults (55+) who wish to start learning music or improve on the instrument of their choice.

*Due to COVID19 restrictions students and instructors are not often this close to each other during lessons; virtual lessons are still a priority at Walker|West for the foreseeable future

Read: “Striking a chord with the senior set” on the Villager

Grow Through Music With Us: Start or Re-Start Your Music Learning Journey

Our teaching artists are available for lessons at Walker|West Music Academy. We offer individual instruction to anyone regardless of age or level of musical knowledge. Virtual instruction consists of voice and a variety of instruments. If you or someone you know is interested in learning music or building upon current talents, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Due to an anonymous donor, we’ve expanded our usual tuition assistance availability, so that cost won’t be a barrier to any one who wants to take lessons with us.

For questions contact Student Services: 651-224-2929 or

Begin Your Music Learning Journey Today

Summer Jam Sessions

Grow Through Music Camp and the Summer Jazz Intensive allow students to become stronger musicians and learn together. Due to the circumstances of this year, we put a hybrid twist on our summer programming with support from the FS Foundation. Students from the Summer Jazz Intensive worked to master complicated pieces from jazz greats, like ‘Passion Dance’ by McCoy Tyner.

Check out this fun video showing how we keep the music going at Walker|West no matter what!

“Passion Dance” as performed by our Summer Jazz Intensive Students – produced by Ernest Bisong

Preparing for the future (COVID19 Update)

As we continue to adjust during these times, we recently announced the partial re-opening of our facility. This includes the first phase of in-person lessons. Virtual instruction will continue, and remains a priority for everyone’s safety.

View Partial Re-opening Plan highlights on our website

Physically Distant | Musically Close:

To fill the season with music, Walker| West Alums, Family, and Friends combine the virtual stage and the physical and spiritual effects of music to show that we can be Physically Distant, but Musically Close.

Here is a Recap of Our Season of Music So Far

Walker|West at Dual Citizen
Dual Citizen Brewing Company hosted weekly safely distanced, in-person concerts in September, featuring some of our teaching artists such as Ernest Bisong and Jacob Dodd.

Walker|West (and friends) at The Virtual Selby Jazz Fest
The Solomon Parham Quintet, the PJP Trio w/Patricia Lacey and more were highlighted for virtual performances during the 19th annual Selby Jazz Fest.

Selby Ave Brass Band at Golden Thyme
Selby Ave Brass Band graced Selby & Milton Ave on September 26th for a safely distanced live performance!

Rondo Community Music Series (September)
We are King gave an amazing performance to a  live virtual audience of over 500 people! There were viewers from 39 states and over 15 countries!

Rondo Community Music Series – Upcoming:
DeSean Jones – Saturday, November 7th
Ashley DuBose – Saturday, December 5th
*Duncan, Duncan, and Robinson has been rescheduled





We Appreciate You!

We appreciate you for being a partner in our music learning community at Walker|West Music Academy. As we navigate through these times, your support strengthens our work. We succeed and propel forward with the powerful force of music, which connects us all. Here are some ways to continue your support:

Thank you for your continued support of Walker|West.

July 2020 Newsletter

Accents & Illuminations Newsletter – July 2020

Below is our Quarterly update from July 2020.

Violin students and siblings Wacheke, Mukuhi, and Wangari strike a pose. Read more about their musical family on our blog.

Walker|West Accents & Illuminations

July 2020 Newsletter

Powering through with Music

We’ve made several major changes since early spring, specifically moving to virtual programming. In addition to the disruption of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we have also been processing the tragedy of George Floyd and subsequent events, and we have felt deep mourning with our shared communities.

Walker|West strives to maintain spaces that promote strength and healing. We miss our in-person classes, as well as the joy and laughter they come with. However, the feeling of togetherness and commitment to music learning is the same, even if through a computer or a phone. Thanks to the resilience of our instructors, staff, and students, and with your support, we have continued to provide music education to all.

With this quarterly newsletter, we’ll provide updates on what we’ve been working on since April, and an exciting preview of what’s to come.

Keep scrolling to catch up with Walker|West!

Funding Updates

Walker|West would like to give a special thanks to our funding partners. Donor and foundation support allows us to continue (and increase) music education access for our students.

Here’s a look at some of the major support we have received this quarter:

FS Foundation has been a true partner with Walker|West, initially supporting our older adult program, providing COVID-19 funding to expand our partnership with MacPhail Center for Music Learning and Twin Cities Jazz Fest. Now, they’ve extended their support for our summer youth programming and other youth engagement programs.

Youthprise funded us again in the spring, to assist with COVID-19 impacts to our general operating budget. Youthprise has been a partner for many different aspects of our work, including the Minnesota AfterSchool Advance program which provides funding for afterschool and summer activities for Minnesota Families.

Harlan Boss Foundation For the Arts has extended their support for the second year of our Rondo Community Music Series. This well-attended series debuted last fall and will be returning in a virtual format this September.

US Small Business Administration funding was a new option for us, in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, helping us to cover general operating funds during this challenging time.


To make a major gift contact Braxton Haulcy, Executive Director (

To join our giving community as an individual or monthly donor visit our website:

Walker|West Capital Campaign – Coming Soon

We’re preparing for a new capital campaign with our ‘Walker|West Without Walls’ initiative. Join us as we grow our capacity to serve more students, virtually and in-person, increase our enrollment, and build our plan for an updated facility.

In case you missed it, see our recent feature in the Pioneer Press

COVID-19 Update

We are currently working on surveying our faculty to assess our capacity for offering (some) in-person learning. We will also be sending a survey to our current families* to get a feel for comfort levels and interest for in-person vs. continued (or increased) remote learning.

We will follow guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), with consideration to guidance from Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS), the National Federation of State High School Association (NFHS), and the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) to make our decisions.

Updates will be shared on our website, via social media, and email updates like this. If you would like to become a volunteer member of the reopening planning team, please email Tonya Gregory, Program Director (

In the meantime, our virtual lessons and programming will continue! Keep scrolling to learn more about what we’ve been doing online.

*‘Current families’ are students enrolled for the 2019-2020 academic year and 2020 summer programming and lessons.

Our reality is virtual

We have been hard at work finding new ways to continue music instruction. Here’s how we’ve adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic:

Virtual Lessons

Here at Walker|West, we are accustomed to in-person instruction and learning. With the onset of COVID-19, what we had always done needed to be changed to better serve staff and students safely and appropriately. We saw some dips in enrollment in the beginning of the crisis, and continue to think through innovative ways to serve! With the help of our resilient staff and instructors, we adjusted accordingly with lots of success for our local families in the metro.

Though we are rooted in the Summit-University and Historic Rondo community, thanks to going virtual, our reach is now nationwide! Students can enroll from anywhere, and have done just that! Walker|West Co-Founder Grant West, has been teaching students in different parts of the US, from home.

Blog Post: “Virtual Lessons Bring National Reach”

Virtual Recitals

In Early summer families, instructors, and staff performances from our strings and piano programs this summer via ZOOM and Skype.

Students and viewers were very satisfied with the ease of the event. They found it to be organized, and there were viewers from the Twin Cities, Boston, and Chicago! The feeling of being live and in person was missed, but the transition to virtual is appreciated and well received.

Here is what community member and Walker|West parent Kenna Cottman had to say:

“The online piano recital was a great experience for my son Ebrima. He said it went perfectly. My whole family was able to participate in different ways even though we all had different things going on, so it really was great. I want to really commend you for making this distance-learning really work. I’m really happy with the Skype lessons, I’m really happy with our continued participation with Walker|West. Just keep up the good work!”

We’ve been posting about our virtual lessons and recitals online – follow us on social media for more.

See Photos from “Walker|West Recital #2”

“Drums. Music. Life.” Podcast

Sponsored by Walker|West and created by Kevin Washington (dedicated Walker|West Teaching & Performing Artist), this bi-weekly program is here with passion and purpose.

The podcast explores music as a powerful healing agent. Hear Kevin and his family share musical performances and rich cultural history, while highlighting how music is instrumental in positive mental health, especially within the African American experience.

“Drums. Music. Life.” is available now on Buzzsprout, Google Podcasts, Spotify and Apple Music.

Listen to “Drums. Music. Life.” Anywhere

Walker|West Without Walls – At Home

The ‘At Home’ series is an extension of the Walker|West Without Walls initiative spotlighting members of our community outside 760 Selby Avenue.

In this photo series posted on our social media, we embark on a journey together, documenting what it’s like to learn outside of the ‘normal’ we came to know. It seems especially relevant now, since gathering is such a crucial aspect of community. It’s a way to stay connected. We embrace change, and it only brings us closer – even as we may be physically distant.

Read the latest “At Home” series interview on FB

Follow us on social media & join our mailing list for regular updates on programming, performances, students & teaching/performing artists.

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Virtual Older Adult Programming

Working with students of all ages is an important element to the integrity of our organization.

Groups like our Amazing Grace Chorus who were featured on Kare-11 last summer, provide moments of learning and connection for treasured members of our community. With safety as priority, we made the difficult decision to change the layout of our older adult programming during the beginning stages of the encouraged self-quarantine and subsequent MN Stay at Home Order. We created a pilot program for new students with free 30 minute online lessons with our instructors in piano, woodwinds, brass, percussion, guitar and voice.

Existing older adult students (ages 55+) were able to convert in-person lessons to virtual lessons. Here’s what two of our older adult students had to say about their experience when they moved to remote lessons:

“My instructor is Grant West. He can take a piece I thought was impossible to learn, he breaks it down in small simple steps, and before long I can play it! It’s a privilege to be able to take from a pianist who is so creative and talented. He’s always so positive! The online lessons we’re a little bit tricky for me at first, but thanks to Walker West and my smartphone they were able to help me get connected. And thanks to Grant West, he makes my sessions fun and productive.”

–Jean Rohrer, Piano Student

“I love the convenience, the feeling of community, the amazing, helpful staff and the special attention that I receive from my teacher and the other members of the music faculty.  I am lucky to have been first taught by Reverend Walker himself. Now, I am more than pleased to be under the watchful eye of Grant West, a true music master in his own right, who is a patient, attentive, and engaging teacher.”

–Lewis M. Rambo, Piano Student


Start your lessons with Walker|West. We take great pride in serving students of all ages in our music learning community. You too can join – by enrolling now, via google form:

For questions contact Student Services: 651-224-2929 or

Other Virtual programs since spring

Among the online programs we’ve done are the virtual Twin Cities Jazz Fest and our ‘Music for Families’ early childhood programming and we are preparing for an innovative take on the Rondo Community Music Series this fall.

We’ve moved our Grow Through Music summer camp online.

Learn more about our Growth Through Music camp

Meet the Walker|West Marketing Team

W|W Marketing team from left to right: Courtney, Benny, Genesia & Shaunte


Have you noticed anything different?

We wish to keep our community of supporters up to date on the excellence of our organization. Communication and promotion is imperative in ensuring you know exactly what’s going on, can stay connected, and get involved!

Meet the Walker|West Marketing Team!

  • Courtney White – Marketing Team Leader
  • Benny Moreno – Social Media Manager
  • Genesia Williams – Design & Strategy Manager
  • Shaunte’ Douglas – Communications Consultant

Special Thank you to Joan Nyberg 

Joan has helped to build the foundation and structures that are used to elevate the Walker|West brand and communicate with our students and families, community and supporters. While Joan has recently retired from the Walker|West team, we are grateful for her contributions helping us grow through (marketing) music.

Jamming through a Global Health Pandemic

COVID-19 created new challenges for all of us, but nothing that we can’t navigate through. These challenging times have pushed us to innovate and find new ways to gather, grow and explore!

Here’s how our teaching and performing artists are enriching the virtual performance space:

Rondo Community Music Series (returning this fall)

The Rondo Community Music Series wrapped up in late winter with outstanding performances by Ashley Dubose, the Kevin Washington Quintet; Robert Robinson, Debbie Duncan and William Duncan, and DeSean Jones.

An appreciative audience packed the house at Walker|West Music Academy for every performance. This year we remain dedicated to bringing you hope, healing and joy through the power of music. We’re excited to be returning this fall with our 2020 line-up, beginning this September.

The Rondo Community Music Series is being changed to virtual music performances so that potential audiences can continue social distancing protocols. We have created RONDO COMMUNITY MUSIC LIVE, a platform that will bring live performances into audience’s homes.

Be sure to follow us on social media so you don’t miss a beat! 




Twin Cities Jazz Fest Live on Crowdcast

This virtual format showcased the live music you love with artists that are the best of the best.

Jazz Fest Live was presented by AARP Minnesota and supported by the Minnesota State Arts Board, St. Paul Cultural STAR, NEA, HIWAY Federal Credit Union, RBC Wealth Management, and JAZZ88. Several of our Teaching Performing artists and alums were featured performers!

Walker|West performers for the series were:

Catch up on Virtual TCJF Performances – via Crowdcast

Music Education Fosters Success

Music education has benefits in the classroom, in the boardroom, and in life. Our students, no matter their age are enriched by what they learn with us.

See the impact of Walker|West Music Academy:

Image courtesy of Amber Woodhouse.


Powerful Alums

Former students like Amber Woodhouse live out the cultural and community roots that are at the core of our music tradition.

Though based in Nashville, TN Woodhouse attended Walker|West as a high school student a number of years ago. She is a multidisciplinary artist featured on NPR’s “10 Nashville Artists To Add To Your Playlists”  who recently told Rolling Stone Magazine she has had enough. Speaking out against rampant injustices like that of the killing of George Floyd, with her new piece “A Message From One Of Your Black Friends.”

Watch Amber Woodhouse’s stirring work – via Rolling Stone Mag

2020 Founder’s Award Recipient

Congratulations to the winner of the 2020 Walker|West Founders Award, Ariam Hashel!

Every year, we ask our instructors to nominate a student that has shown and proven dedication to the mission of Walker|West Music academy. The winner exemplifies gathering, exploring and growing through music. Read more about Ariam and the other graduating seniors on our blog.

Blog Post: “2020 Founder’s Award Recipient”

Music Healing Scholarships

⁣⁣We know that during these trying times, one way to pursue healing is through the power of music.

In partnership with MacPhail School of Music and the Twin Cities Jazz Fest we offered a month’s worth of weekly lessons for students ages 5 – 18. Students with some prior music training are receiving lessons in piano, organ, bass, drum, woodwind, brass, guitar, violin, viola and voice.

Our Music healing scholarships opened up access for 15 students to begin or continue their music learning journeys. Then, with support from the FS Foundation, the 4 weeks of free 30-minute lessons was extended to 50 weeks. That’s a whole year of vital music education.

Your support helps more students impact the world around them, like Ariam, Amber, and our Music Healing scholars.

Providing affordable and of high quality music education ensures students reach their fullest potential. With the availability of tuition assistance, anyone can reach their goals. As this July 2020 edition of ‘Accents and Illuminations’ is wrapping up, keep going to hear all the ways to engage with our work!

The Future Is Now

Together we can grow the work of Walker|West. Check out our new ways of connecting to find what you enjoy. Share with your family and friends so our mission can continue to thrive.

Make a gift of any size to support our programming.

Individual donors, whether one-time or monthly, allow us to provide tuition assistance for families, grow our general operating budget, and cover staff and instructor costs.

Join our giving community today!

Sign up for music lessons with our talented instructors.

We serve students of all ages, across a range of genres and instruments. There’s a program for you, your family, and your friends to explore.

Enroll today!

Be a Walker|West Ambassador – Share our stories!

We’re increasing our storytelling power with our expanded marketing team. Follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter to get regular updates from us. When you see an interesting story from us, feel free to share with people you know!

Sign up for our newsletter.

Thank you for your continued support of Walker|West.

Why Walker|West: Wacheke, Mukuhi, and Wangari

Why Walker|West: Wacheke, Mukuhi, and Wangari

Njoroge Family

“Walker|West Without Walls – At Home,” our social media series, gives us access to the many layers of our community. Families, in particular, are foundational to our work. From Grant West and Tom West to Debbie Duncan and Mr. Duncan (her brother), to the Hashel sisters, and more –we’re used to seeing siblings instructing, learning, and growing with music.

Violinists Wacheke (14), Mukuhi (12) both began studying string instruments when they were young. Wacheke and Mukuhi are both members of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies, and Wacheke, who will enter Roseville Area High School in the fall, was just one of five 9th graders accepted in the more advanced upper grade orchestra. Wangari (4), the youngest of the three sisters, is just beginning her music education journey.  

We recently spoke with their family about learning during these challenging times. 

The two eldest siblings note the positive impact of Walker|West. They enjoy the perks of being Walker|West students, especially right now. “During COVID, music education gives us a way to express ourselves while most things are unavailable. Walker|West Music Academy has allowed us to experience different opportunities that were not previously available, like meeting Roderick Cox, and going to the Minnesota Orchestra.” 

The quality of Walker|West programming and instruction is of the highest importance to students and families. Frustrated in the beginning, the Njoroge sisters took time to adjust to the format of virtual lessons and recitals. They particularly like the fact there is no commute to virtual classes, and they don’t have to take too much time to prepare. They really appreciated the time allotted to rehearsing before the virtual recitals. “It was great that we could be broken up into small groups to rehearse.” Wachecke and Muhuki have a great level of confidence in their violin instructor, Earl Ross. “Working with Earl is great because he is patient with us. He really takes his time with teaching us and understands when we are struggling with something. He makes sure we get it at our pace.”

In the photo above, the girls pose with their instruments wearing bright colors and dresses made of cloth from their parent’s community in Kenya. Ndugi, their mother, says:

“Growing up in Africa, we were raised by very strong Gikuyu men and women in a community setting with lots of love and in a very socially nourishing environment. We had a very stable foundation rooted in [our] African culture. As the country opened up to western media and other western influences we saw our community change right before our very own eyes“

Over time, she explains,  the impact of colonialism had a very deleterious effect on how Kenyans perceived themselves as well as how they perceived black America. When it came time to raise their children (all born in the US), it was important that they find a community that embraced and celebrated the histories and cultures of the peoples of African descent. Walker|West is one of several organizations the Njoroge Family found in Saint Paul that does just that.  

Ndugi talks of her family’s “love for self, African heritage, and African Community” grown from involvement with community organizations in African diaspora communities of the Twin Cities. Walker|West is rooted in the historic Rondo neighborhood, which held one of the largest and richest collections of African Americans in Minnesota. A neighborhood which was famously dismantled with the construction of 94W. Though historic Rondo was forever changed, the spirit of that community, and it’s musical traditions is at the core of the Walker|West method. 

“The Walker|West family continues to nurture our dear daughters beyond our expectations. The community here has given them a place they can confidently feel safe to be who they are, are welcomed, included and supported.” 

We’re always pleased to tell the stories of our students and their families. Follow our social media series “Walker|West Without Walls – At Home” on facebook and instagram.

Facebook: @WalkerWestMusic
Instagram: @WalkerWestMusic

To become a part of the story, enroll in our programming today with instructors like Earl Ross, and others who make music education fun for students of all ages.

Free Lesson

And to help Walker|West sustain our work, reaching more students like the Njoroge sisters please join our donor community by making one time or recurring gift of any size


April Newsletter


Big Changes for Everyone

Suddenly life has changed for us all. Now music and community seem even more essential than they did just weeks ago. We remain dedicated to bringing you hope, healing and joy through the power of music.

While we are glad we can continue to teach lessons remotely, we miss seeing you in person. We miss your smiles and laughter, the closeness and the hugs. So we’ve sprinkled some virtual smiles and hugs throughout the newsletter from Walker|West to you.

Founders Grant West and Rev. Carl Walker

Thank You Students, Families and Faculty

Most of our students have continued to take lessons. We cannot thank you enough for standing by Walker|West while we made the transition from in-person lessons to remote learning. The heroes behind that effort are Earl Ross and Ernest Bisong of our string community. They helped us quickly pivot to remote learning by training our teaching artists to use the technology and troubleshooting problems.


How You Can Help

It is a challenging time for Walker|West. Several families have dropped out of lessons. In addition, some funders are reassessing their priorities.

Our priorities are:

• Keep the organization financially solvent
• Increase the tuition assistance fund so we can continue to make music education accessible to all

We believe our programming is helping students of all ages remain engaged and actively learning during this time of social isolation.

Please consider supporting Walker|West to help us keep bringing exceptional music education and enrichment to students of all ages and backgrounds.

• Donate via PayPal or GiveMN
• Click the donate button on the website
• Mail us a check
• Inquire whether your employer will match your gift
• Contribute now, rather than at the end of the year

Other Ways to Show Your Support

Tonya Gregory and Grant West

• Go to and select Walker West Music Academy as your designated nonprofit. The Amazon Smile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to Walker|West at no cost to you.
• Recommend Walker|West to your friends and family directly or over social media. Remember, we can now enroll students from anywhere in the country.

Thank you for doing what you can to help Walker|West during these uncertain times.


New Approaches

We are developing new techniques and approaches to making 2020 a successful year for our music learning community despite all the challenges. Following are some examples of what we are doing to stay close while at a distance:

Grant West playing guitar

Checking in: Earl Ross of our string community is keeping string students and their families connected. He holds weekly group meetings via Zoom. The group comes together online to talk about how they are feeling and coping with our new reality. At the first meeting, many people said they felt scared and frustrated. By the end of the call, most said they were feeling more hopeful. We plan to roll out this practice to other departments.

Exploring options: We are working with MacPhail Center for Music to create online programming for infants, toddlers and their parents. We’ll keep you posted on developments. In the meantime, read this article in Insight News about the early childhood music education program.

Getting social: Let’s keep in touch online. Please follow @WalkerWestMusic on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Post photos or short videos of you or your children practicing or performing and tag us in your post. Or tell us what Walker|West means to you. Stay tuned for some special online musical challenges!

Taking free “porch portraits” and videos: Walker|West’s favorite photographer, Benny Moreno of Helios Photography has offered to take free family portraits from a safe social distance.

Children with instruments

You can pose with your family and instrument(s) on your porch or in front of your house while Benny shoots from the sidewalk. You can download your high resolution portraits online for FREE if you grant us permission to post them online. Benny will even take a cell phone video for you to post to social media. To arrange your own photo/video mini session, contact Benny.


Upcoming Programs

Register for Session 4 Lessons

Boy plays piano while instructor looks on

Session 4 begins Monday, April 27 and runs through June 27. Why not get ahead of the game and register for lessons today?

Do you know of people outside the Twin Cities area who would like to take lessons with a Walker|West instructor? Now that our lessons are offered virtually, anyone can enroll. Please spread the word to anyone you think might be interested.


Summer Camp

Three children playing violin

July 6-24 from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. 

Our summer music camp is an opportunity for 30 students ages 5-12 to learn five different instruments during the morning and participate in movement classes in the afternoon. The program culminates with a performance for parents. Breakfast, lunch and snacks are included. Instruments include piano/keyboards, a wind instrument, violin or viola, African drum, and chorus (voice). Register online, email us about the camp or call 651-224-2929. Tuition assistance is available. For more information, check out an article about last year’s summer camp in the March issue of Minnesota Parent.


Summer Jazz Intensive

Young trumpet player and instructor

August 3- August 7, Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.

Our Summer Jazz Intensive is for middle school and high school beginner to advanced jazz musicians. Classes include improvisation, theory, ensemble and master classes as well as individual instruction. Lunch is provided and tuition assistance is available.

There is a selection process for SJI. Interested students should contact Tonya Gregory at 651-789-1685 or for more details.


2020 Highlights

Babatunde Lea Performance

Babatunde Lea quintet performing at Walker West

At least 50 hard-core music lovers battled one of the biggest snowstorms of the season to hear the Babatunde Lea Quintet and the Selby Avenue Brass Band kick off the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend January 17. Thanks to everyone who came and enjoyed the show.

Walker West exterior in a snow storm

Special thanks to the Twist Davis Group for providing delicious food and beverages, and to those kind-hearted volunteers who shoveled the sidewalks several times during the evening.


A Masterclass with Paris Strother

Paris Stother and Grant West playing keyboards

In January, our Digital Goes Live students were treated to a masterclass by producer, composer, arranger, Grammy-nominated musician, MOOG synthesizer representative and former Walker|West student, Paris Strother! Thank you so much, Paris, for coming back to teach and inspire the next generation!

Digital Goes Live is a collaboration between Walker|West and St. Paul’s High School for Recording Arts (HSRA). HSRA students have been learning instrumental music and basic music theory at Walker|West. They also have the opportunity to learn from industry leaders like Paris.

The program is funded by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Minnesota State Arts Board logo




A Visit from Acclaimed Conductor Roderick Cox

Roderick Cox shakes hands with Braxton Haulcy

Last fall, The Roderick Cox Music Initiative/Film North awarded Walker|West $10,000 to provide funding for music instruction, instrument repair and replacement, and summer camp opportunities for youth in our string program.

In February, Roderick Cox visited Walker|West to learn more about our program and meet some of our remarkable students. Above Walker|West Executive Director Braxton Haulcy greets Mr. Cox and Yvonne Cheek, a director of the Minnesota Orchestra who facilitated the gift and visit.

Roderick Cox and Walker West string students

After taking a tour of the facility and hearing a program overview, Mr. Cox listened to performances by several of our students. Later he talked with them about their goals, discussed their favorite composers and assured them that at a certain point, practicing actually becomes fun.

Roderick Cox was Associate Conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra for the 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 seasons. He is now based in Berlin, and conducts orchestras throughout Europe and North America.


A Masterclass with Amir El Safar

Amir El Safar gives a masterclass at Walker West

About 40 brass players and music lovers turned out to hear Iraqi-American composer and jazz trumpeter Amir El Saffar present a masterclass Tuesday, February 11. Mr. El Saffar was in town to lead an ensemble at the Ordway in the performance of an original work commissioned by Ragamala Dance Company. He said he enjoyed teaching the class and especially liked “the vibe” at Walker|West.

We plan to present virtual masterclasses with other noted artists in the future.


In the Community

Youth Jazz Ensemble Performances

Youth jazz ensemble at Orchestra Hall

The Walker|West Youth Jazz Ensemble performed at the Mall of America January 20.

The group also performed in the Atrium of Orchestra Hall Saturday, February 8. The room had seating for about 200 people and, at times, it was standing room only. An Orchestra Hall representative told ensemble directors Kevin Washington and Jack Breen that she had never seen as big a crowd at a youth performance.


Faculty Members Perform at Capella Tower


Peter Goggins playing sax at Capella Tower

Faculty members provided lunchtime entertainment to those passing through Capella Tower in downtown Minneapolis each Wednesday in January. Thank you to Ernest Bisong, violin; Babatunde Lea, African drums; Grant West, piano; and Peter Goggin, saxophone; for sharing your artistry and brightening the days of everyone who heard your music.


In the News

Minnesota Parent Magazine Features Walker|West’s Summer Music Camp

Summer campers playing recorder with instructor Jack Breen

Walker|West’s Summer Music Camp was featured in the March issue of Minnesota Parent Magazine. The article, which starts on page 26 of this issue, sparked the interest of dozens of parents who called to inquire about the camp.
In the article, Program Director Tonya Gregory discusses how the techniques Walker|West teachers have developed over the years allow students to learn amazingly fast. Walker|West Summer Camp instructor Jack Breen discussed the need to develop a trusting relationship with the students and to be able to go with the flow. Sometimes “we just have a little dance party,” he said.

Grant West and Tonya Gregory at Summer Camp Fair

MacPhail/Walker|West Collaboration Featured in Insight News

Insight News published an article on the Sing Play Learn with MacPhail Early Childhood Music Program that’s been offered at Walker|West.

“Teaching awakened a curiosity I have about child development in particular in communities of color,” said the instructor, Ivory Doublette. “How we are developing, how it may be different, and how the arts can help us with the achievement gap. Music should be used practically in everyday life; that is very much how our community started.”

Doublette notes that the program helps develop school readiness, language skills and the ability to follow directions. And a parent/participant discusses how the class has changed her young daughter’s life for the better. Read the full article.


Ernest Bisong Featured in MINN Post

Ernest Bisong performs violin at Capella Tower in Minneapolis

Violin, jazz band and digital music program instructor Ernest Bisong was one of several music teachers from around the Twin Cities featured in an article in MINN Post about moving music lessons online.

“Music is at the core of who we are as humans,” he said. “And socializing is a huge part of what that is. I hope this all passes in time, to get back to what we were programmed to do as humans.”


Good bye to Walker|West 2nd Sundays

Thanks to everyone who came out to support this delicious Walker|West fundraiser that started last fall and ended March 8. We appreciate the generosity of the Twist Davis Group of restaurants, which gave Walker|West 100 percent of the profits made on the second Sunday of each month.

Revival and In-Bloom, like all Minnesota restaurants, are facing hard times. In-Bloom and Revival Smoked Meats in St. Paul’s Keg and Case Market building have closed.

The St. Paul and Minneapolis Revival Restaurants are offering take out and delivery.You can order online, use their new app, or call the numbers below. Please consider supporting these folks who have done so much to support Walker|West.

Take care, Twist Davis Group friends. We look forward to the day when we can sit down at one of your tables together again.


Let Music Bring You Healing and Comfort

We hope our world will be a bit more settled by the time our next newsletter is published in July. Until then, please stay well, be kind and, when life seems overwhelming, take time to listen to some music or, better yet, make some of your own.


January Newsletter

Walker|West Accents & Illuminations

January 2020 Newsletter


Current Programs

Rondo Community Music Series Brings Down the House in Final 3 Concerts

Sax player DeSean Jones

The Rondo Community Music Series wrapped up with outstanding performances by the Kevin Washington Quintet; Robert Robinson, Debbie Duncan, and William Duncan; and DeSean Jones, pictured. Every concert drew a packed house. Thanks for coming!

We are grateful to the Harlan Boss Foundation for the Arts and the Rondo Land Trust: More Jazz on Selby Initiative for funding this concert series that focused on bringing the community together through music. And thanks to the Twist Davis Group for providing complimentary food and beverages at each performance.


Rave Reviews for Music for Families

The first session of this early childhood music education program was a hit with parents and children. Parents appreciated the small class size and the skill of the instructor, Ivory Doublette. Here is a sample of their feedback:

“So often toddler music classes are led by teachers who have minimal music training. This class is exceptional and stands out from the rest because Ivory is clearly a professional musician. This makes a huge difference!”

“We had a wonderful time with our one-year-old. Our instructor was fantastic and brought her joy and love of music to all of us. Thank you for the musical skills and fun learning!”

Music for Families promotes music awareness and appreciation through the various integrated arts activities based on seasonal themes. The lively class meets the varied needs of each child. Through the power of music, children develop social skills, body control, increased attention spans, and an appreciation of music.

Each 10-week session offers new themes, songs, and musical activities. Taught by Sing Play Learn with a MacPhail® music specialist.

New Sessions Begin in January

Time and Dates:
10 a.m. – 10:45 a.m., Thursdays, January 9-March 12


1 p.m. – 1:45 p.m., Fridays, January 10-March 13
To register, download and complete the registration form and pay tuition online or call 651-224-2929.
Tuition assistance available!


The Amazing Grace Chorus

Amazing Grace ChorusEvery Thursday, members of the Amazing Grace Chorus lift their voices in song, filling the Walker|West Performance Hall with beautiful gospel music. Chorus members under the direction of Shana Moses are pictured performing at the Hallie Q. Brown Winter Tea. Musical Director Carl Clomon accompanies on piano and arranges the pieces.

Amazing Grace Chorus provides seniors with an opportunity to participate in health-promoting activities while experiencing the joy of singing together. This community chorus highlights the culture and music of African-Americans as it offers ‘music to remember.’ The chorus is open to any seniors in the community and welcomes those with Alzheimer’s/dementia or chronic disease, and their caregivers.

The chorus allows singers to give voice to their creative potential while combating the isolation many seniors experience.


Barack and Michelle Obama Elementary School Pilot

Babatunde Lea at Obama Elementary

Our pilot program with St. Paul’s Barack and Michelle Obama Elementary School concluded last month. After 10 weekly sessions of instruction in either keyboards or African drumming, the students performed a recital. Everyone in attendance was impressed by how much the young musicians had learned. A second 10-week session is scheduled for spring.

Digital Goes Live Pilot Program

Twice-a-week classes have resumed after winter break for students participating in this collaboration between Walker|West and St. Paul’s High School for Recording Arts (HSRA.)

Walker|West students go to HSRA for instruction in digital music and recording; HSRA students come to Walker|West to learn instrumental music and basic music theory. Both groups of students work in producer/co-producer teams at Walker|West to create music and sounds. The collaboration will help students optimize their musical experience and career options.

Minnesota State Arts Board logoWalker|West teaching artist Solomon Parham, the lead instructor in the program, works with Kevin Washington and Ernest Bisong to provide instruction for the 12 HSRA students. The students are doing well as a group, and several students are excelling.

This program is supported by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.


Upcoming Programs

Free Babatunde Lea Performance January 17

Performance by Babatunde Lea Quintet

Friday, January 17, 2020
Reception: 6 p.m.
Concert: 7:30 p.m.
The concert is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP online or call 651-224-2929

Start the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday weekend with a free performance by renowned percussionist and Walker|West teaching artist Babatunde Lea. The Selby Avenue Brass Band, featuring vocalist Thomasina Petrus, will perform during the reception. And our founders, Rev. Carl Walker and Grant West will be presented with the Founders Award.

Babatunde Lea’s vast experience of almost 50 years as a master percussionist, as well as the spiritual depth and resonance he brings to everything he does, has made him one of the most esteemed musicians of the past half century. The list of JAZZ GREATS whom Babtunde has played with include Joe Henderson, Mycoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, Bill Summers, Lonnie Liston Smith, Buddy Williams, Ernie Watts, and Patrice Rushen.

His work has been noted for its mixture of styles and influences. Babatunde brings a spiritual jazz steeped in the African tradition … from Afro-Cuban to Afro-Brazilian to Senegalese to Nigerian, as well as straight ahead jazz.

The call to Africa that emerges from the drum, Babatunde says, is about one unifying spirit reaching a higher level of humanity … very much in theme with Martin Luther King’s message to the world.

Babatunde is a Walker|West teaching artist and Co-Founder of EduCultural Foundation, which is dedicated to providing school-age children with music and cultural education.


Walker|West 2nd Sundays

A Delicious Way to Support Walker|West

Grant West at the pianoThe Twist Davis Group, owners of Revival and In-Bloom restaurants, generously donates 100 percent of profits made on the second Sunday of each month to Walker|West. Please join us on Sundays, January 12, February 9 and March 8.

As an added treat, Walker|West co-founder Grand West will perform piano selections at Revival St. Paul, 525 Selby Ave., on Walker|West Second Sundays.

You can support Walker|West while enjoying a meal at any of the Twist Davis Group’s fine establishments:

Revival offers fried chicken and other classic Southern comfort foods served in a stylishly relaxed surrounding.

In Bloom is a fine dining concept featuring seasonal and wild ingredients expressed through fire. It is located on the historic grounds of the iconic Schmidt Brewery.

Thank you for helping us take full advantage of this delicious opportunity made possible through the generosity of the Twist Davis Group. We are profoundly grateful for their ongoing support.


Renown Conductor to Visit Walker|West February 3

Roderick Cox

The Roderick Cox Music Initiative/Film North awarded $10,000 to Walker|West to provide funding for music instruction, instrument repair and replacement, and strings summer camp opportunities to under-served youth in our strings program. Conductor Roderick Cox will visit Walker|West February 3 to meet with instructors and those strings students awarded the scholarship. The donation has been coordinated through Yvonne Cheek, a consultant and officer of the Minnesota Orchestra.

Mr. Cox understands that many students of color do not have the money or resources to have good instruments. When he first took up the French horn, he loved to play, but his horn was in such bad shape it was actually held together with duct tape. Eventually, he received a new horn from the Otis Redding Foundation.

Winner of the 2018 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award by the U.S Solti Foundation, Roderick Cox was Associate Conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra for the 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 seasons. A Georgia native, he is now based in Berlin, and he conducts orchestras throughout Europe and North America. To learn more about Roderick Cox, watch this video.


Workshop with Amir ElSaffar

Trumpeter Amir ElSaffar

6 p.m., Tuesday, February 11
Walker|West Performance Hall
Free and open to the public

Iraqi-American composer and jazz trumpeter Amir ElSaffar will present a master class at 6 p.m., February 11 in the performance hall.

He will explore the rich jazz music tradition and delve into how he has used his jazz training to develop intersections with other musical traditions.  Basic jazz and music theory experience will be helpful. Music students are encouraged to attend. Please bring your instruments. Limited space available, RSVP today to confirm your spot or contact Tonya Gregory ( for more information.

Mr. ElSaffar has been described as “uniquely poised to reconcile jazz and Arabic music,” (the Wire) and “one of the most promising figures in jazz today” (Chicago Tribune). He is a recipient of the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and a 2018 US Artist Fellow. Mr. ElSaffar is in St. Paul to lead an ensemble at the the Ordway in the performance of an original work commissioned by Ragamala Dance Company.


Mark Your Calendar for Session 2 Recitals

6 p.m., Saturday, February 8
2 p.m., Sunday, February 9
6 p.m. Saturday, February 15: Strings Recital

Session 2 ends February 8. Recitals will be held February 8 and 9, with a separate recital February 15 for students in the strings program. Everyone is welcome to come and hear our students perform.

Session 3 begins February 10 and runs through April 25. Why not get ahead of the game and register for lessons today?

In the Community

Students Perform at the Mall of America on MLK Day

Walker|West’s Youth Jazz Ensemble will perform at the Mall of America at 2 p.m., Monday, January 20 in Northeast Court, located in the Northeast corner of the mall. Come hear these accomplished young musicians perform in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Faculty Members Perform at Capella Towers January Wednesdays

If you are in downtown Minneapolis on a Wednesday in January over the lunch hour, come to Capella Tower, 225 South 6th St., to hear some of Walker|West’s teaching artists perform.

Performing in the tower’s three-story atrium from noon to 1 p.m. are:

January 8: Ernest Bisong, violin
January 15: Babatunde Lea, African drums
January 22: Grant West, piano
January 29: Peter Goggin, saxophone

All of our instructors are professional musicians as well as music teachers. This is an excellent opportunity to hear them perform.


A Shout Out to Our Alumni

Former Walker|West students may be gone, but they are never forgotten. They remain part of our community. Here’s some news on a few exceptional musicians who all got their start at Walker|West.

DeCarlo Jackson and Arlo bandmates

The Local Current Blog featured trumpter DeCarlo Jackson, pictured above with his local band Arlo. DeCarlo plays with Arlo when he’s not on tour with Hippo Campus.

Songwriter and vocalist Nikki Jean, above right,  is now signed to the Rhymesayer’s label and will be performing with Atmosphere at First Avenue January 13. It’s the first stop on their Wherever Tour of North America. (It’s been sold out for months.)

Amber Woodhouse

Nashville-based sax player and vocalist Amber Woodhouse wound up a national tour with Trigger Hippy last month that included a stop in Minneapolis.

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for updates on Walker|West alumni and much more.

A Promising Year Ahead

2020 promises to be a busy and exciting year at Walker|West. We hope you will be part of the action. We are grateful to our students, families, staff, faculty, founders, board, volunteers, community partners, and, of course, our funders and supporters. Thank you all for your part in helping Walker|West thrive.

Please consider supporting us financially. Your donation in any amount will help us continue to use the power of music to foster success, healing and joy.


October Newsletter

Walker|West Accents & Illuminations

October 2019 Newsletter



Summer Music Camp Highlights

Young sax playerThirty 5- to 12-year olds transformed into budding musicians at Walker|West’s Summer Music Camp. In just three weeks of half-day classes, the campers learned the basics of five instruments: piano/keyboard, violin, percussion, a brass or woodwind instrument, and voice.

The program culminated with a recital during which the young musicians performed for friends and family on all five instruments. They brought the house down.

Here is what one parent had to say about the camp:

Zoe and Niko are having such a fantastic experience at camp so far. It has been so sweet to see the huge smile on Niko’s face as he plays his song on the piano for us, and I’m amazed at the way Zoe has been able to push through frustrations with being behind some of the other kids in experience. They have so many good things to say about the counselors and the program in general. We’re so grateful and glad to have found the camp!”

Though most campers are new to the program, some enjoy Summer Music Camp so much, they come back year after year.

The camp includes lunch, snacks, and plenty of time for making friends and having fun, but there is serious business taking place.Summer Music Camper

The camp encourages musical discovery and exploration while building team work, discipline, focus, and self confidence in each camper. Even if these students never pick up an instrument again, they leave camp with a sense of mastery. They’ve learned that they can try something difficult, succeed, and have fun while learning. Those are lessons that can set them up for success in all areas of life.

A reporter for Minnesota Parent Magazine visited the camp and talked with staff. The magazine plans to run a feature article on the camp in their Camp edition early in 2020.

It’s never too soon to think about Summer Music Camp 2020. Limited tuition assistance is available.



Summer Jazz Intensive

DrummerIt’s one thing to play an instrument; it’s another thing to play jazz. From August 5 to 9th, ten students ages 12 to 18 received one-on-one and group instruction in what’s been called America’s only original art form: jazz. The Jazz Intensive program was made possible by a City of St. Paul Cultural STAR grant.

The week focused on playing together in an ensemble, improvisation, music theory, and jazz history.The culturally diverse group of students were divided into two ensembles by ability. All the instructors were prominent Twin Cities area jazz musicians. Guest artists Kevin Washington, Pete Whitman, Jordan Anderson, Anthony Cox, and Ernest Bison presented master classes.

Scholarships were available.


Early Childhood Music Program

Music for FamiliesWalker|West kicked off its new Music for Families program last month. A collaboration between Walker|West and Sing Play Learn with MacPhail®, the 10-week program is open to parents with children ages 0 to 4.

Taught by Ivory Doublette, a Sing Play Learn with MacPhail® music specialist, Music for Families promotes music awareness and meets the varied needs of each child. Through the power of music, children develop social skills, control, increased attention span and an appreciation of music.

The next session is tentatively scheduled to begin in early January, but you don’t have to wait. Join us for the remainder of this session, which runs through mid-November. We have two class days and times to choose from:

10 a.m. – 10:45 a.m., Thursdays through-November 14
1 p.m. – 1:45 p.m., Fridays, through November 15

There are currently just five families in each class.

To register or learn more, please contact us online or call us at 651-224-2929.



Ashley DuBose Concert Recap

Ashley DuboseNeo-soul, pop, and R & B vocalist Ashley DuBose kicked off the Rondo Community Music Series Friday, September 13, performing to a packed house. She debuted several unreleased songs during her two, 30-minute sets.

The performance was the first of four free concerts in the Rondo Community Music Series, made possible by the Harlan Boss Foundation for the Arts and the Rondo Community Land Trust More Jazz on Selby Initiative. Even though the event was free, we received generous contributions from guests in support of Walker|West.

The Walker|West performance hall exuded a classy new ambiance for the evening. The rows of chairs were replaced by linen-topped tables lit by electric votive candles. People began calling it “The Club.”

The evening began with a VIP reception for some of Walker|West’s long-time supporters. Guests enjoyed food and beverages courtesy of Twist Davis Group (Revival and In-Bloom restaurants), Heritage Tea House, and Dual Citizen Brewery.

Selby Ave. Brass Band at The ClubThe Selby Ave. Brass Band performed during the reception. Vocalist Thomasina Petrus captured people’s attention with her singing and expressed her devotion to Walker|West and its long history of music education. She said she agreed to perform with the band even though later that night she’d be appearing in the opening night of the play “Crowns.”

Taylor Hamilton, a Walker|West teaching artist who plays keyboards in Ms. DuBose’s band, introduced Ashley DuBose. She took the stage and proved why she has gained international recognition as a performer and recording artist.

Between sets several people gave heartfelt testimonials about Walker|West.

DeCarlo Jackson, a Walker|West alumus who now performs internationally with the group Hippo Campus, talked about how Walker|West helped him become not only a better musician but also a better human being.

After her son was murdered, Rosemary Nevils brought his children to Walker|West. She said she and her grandchildren experienced the music school as a place of healing.

Lastly, Andrea Hayden gave a memorial to her late brother Michael Hayden, who passed away in car accident. He was a musician and would have wanted to support an institution such as Walker|West. There will be an ongoing memorial donation to honor Michael.


The Kevin Washington Quintet Performs Sat., Oct. 26

Walker|West invites you to a free performance by the Kevin Washington Quintet at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, October 26.  A reception, with complimentary food and beverages provided by the Twist Davis Group (Revival and In-Bloom restaurants), precedes the concert at 6 p.m.

Drummer Kevin Washington

Kevin has three decades of experience as a professional musician ranging from stages in Detroit to New York to the Twin Cities in addition to being the lead drum instructor at Walker|West.  Any one who has seen Kevin play the drums knows that he is among the most versatile of jazz musicians. He is as adept at playing straight-ahead tunes as he is incorporating Afro-Latin/African rhythms or hip-hop and funk into his sets.

With Kevin’s leadership, his Quintet aims to take the music to new, contemporary heights while retaining the improvisation inherent in jazz. At the end of 2018, Kevin’s group performed a tribute to the legendary jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove, who had just passed away. Since that highly acclaimed performance, there have been several encore performances of this tribute, including one at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. The night’s set list will include some of the Hargrove tribute pieces along with a variety of other selections.

The concert is the second of four free performances in the Rondo Community Music Series, made possible by the Harlan Boss Foundation for the Arts, and the Rondo Community Land Trust More Jazz on Selby Initiative.

Saturday, October 26
6:00 p.m., Reception; 7:30 p.m., Concert
760 Selby Ave., St. Paul

Free and open to the public
If you plan to attend, please call 651-224-2929 or RSVP online.

Other Series Dates in the Rondo Community Music Series

7:30 p.m, Saturday, November 16
Triple Encore Performance:
From R & B to Gospel: Robinson, Duncan & Duncan, and DP Voices
Walker|West Faculty led by Mr. Duncan

7:30 p.m., Saturday, December 7
Featured Artist:

Desean Jones of Detroit Music Factory

Upcoming Programs & Events

Digital Music Production Pilot

TLogohe Minnesota State Arts Board Arts and Learning Program has fully funded a collaborative pilot program between Walker|West and St. Paul’s High School for Recording Arts (HSRA).

The program will include six students from each institution.

Walker|West students will go to HSRA to learn digital recording and technology. HSRA students will come to Walker|West to learn instrumental music and basic music theory.  The collaboration will help students optimize their musical experience and career options. This “test and learn” program begins this month and continues for the full academic year. After the school year, the program will be evaluated and expanded.

Walker|West has long sought an opportunity to collaborate with HSRAs. We are very pleased to take part in this pilot program.

Barack & Michelle Obama Elementary School Music Enrichment Pilot

Walker|West will bring music enrichment to Barack & Michelle Obama Elementary School beginning this month. Two days a week, Walker|West co-founder Grant West will provide piano/keyboard instruction and internationally known percussionist Baba Tunde Lea will teach a percussion class to the young scholars at Obama Elementary.

Eighty percent of the students at Obama Elementary are persons of color. Minnesota Commission of Education Mary Catherine Rickers is interested in this pilot and wants us to update her department on our progress.

The anticipated outcomes for the pilot include:

  • Growth in math and language skills, and creativity
  • Improved music skills
  • Positive nonacademic skills (i.e., confidence, discipline, teamwork, and determination)
  • Positive attitudes toward school
  • Acquisition of valuable life skills, including ability to focus, self discipline, problem solving, and critical thinking skills

The 10-week session will be held during the school day at Obama Elementary, which is located just blocks from Walker|West.

Walker|West 2nd Sundays at Twist Davis Group Restaurants

A Delicious way to Support Walker|West

The Twist Davis Group kicks off Walker|West 2nd Sundays on October 13. The restaurant group will generously donate 100 percent of profits made on the second Sunday of each month to Walker|West.  Walker|West Co-founder Grant West will perform piano selections at the Revival St. Paul location Oct. 13.

Twist Davis GroupYou can support Walker|West while enjoying a meal at any of the Twist Davis Group’s fine establishments:

Revival offers fried chicken and other classic Southern comfort foods served in a stylishly relaxed surrounding.

In Bloom is a fine dining concept featuring seasonal and wild ingredients expressed through fire. It is located on the historic grounds of the iconic Schmidt Brewery.

Thank you for helping us take full advantage of this delicious opportunity made possible through the generosity of the Twist Davis Group. We are profoundly grateful for their ongoing support.

Potential Workshops with Two Trumpet Greats

Jazz Great Terence Blanchard will be performing at the Ordway Theater in October. He may be available to teach a master class at Walker|West. We will let you know as soon as we confirm arrangements.

Walker|West may also host a master class with Iraqi-American composer/jazz trumpeter Amir ElSaffar prior to his appearance at the Ordway Theater in February. Mr. ElSaffar will lead an ensemble as part of  Ragamala Dance Theater’s performance of Ragamala Rooted: Written in Water. Again, we will update you once details are firmed up.

Walker|West in the Community

Selby Music Festival

  • Walker|West represented at the Selby Avenue Jazz Festival last month. Thank you Tonya and all the volunteers for manning the table, and to our faculty members who opened the day by performing with the Selby Avenue Jazz Band.
  • A Walker|West string duo and a jazz ensemble will play for the Grand Opening of the Dr. Josie Johnson Community Room at the University of Minnesota School of Public Affairs. This private event recognizes Dr. Josie Johnson, the first African American to serve on the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents.
  • Faculty member Taylor Hamilton was part of the band that performed for the grand opening of Prince: Before the Rain, at the Minnesota History Center. The exhibit is composed of photographs taken by Allen Beaulieu, Prince’s personal photographer.

Thank you

As always, there is a lot happening at Walker|West. No matter how busy we are, however, we never forget how fortunate we are to be part of this extraordinary music-learning community. We are grateful to our students, families, staff, faculty, founders, board, volunteers, community partners, and, of course our funders and supporters. Thank you for your part in helping Walker|West thrive.

If you value this organization, please consider supporting it financially through one of the five ways to support Walker|West.