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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

COVID-19 Update: Summer Music Camp & Jazz Intensive

Walker|West Summer Program Update

Summer is fast approaching and decisions must be made about our Summer Music and Movement Camp and the Jazz Intensive programs. We want to assure parents that our top priority is the safety of our students and families.

Conditions and social distancing recommendations related to the COVID-19 outbreak are changing regularly. We are monitoring this dynamic situation closely and are developing plans to respond to multiple scenarios.

Option 1: If  it is not safe to hold the Summer Music and Movement Camp in July, as scheduled, we are considering moving it to August and will confirm specific dates with you when that information is available.

Option 2: We are also exploring virtual options for presenting these programs if social distancing protocols have not relaxed enough to safely hold either program in person during August.

At this time, we will continue to accept registrations for both summer programs. If  in-person camps are cancelled, tuition and fees will be fully refunded. If in-person camps are converted to virtual programs and you choose not to participate, you will also receive a full refund.

Please email us or call 651-224-2929 if you have any questions.  

COVID-19 Update

WALKER|WEST MUSIC ACADEMY RESPONDS TO COVID-19

Walker West Music Academy is committed to the safety and well being of our students and their families, our staff, and the entire community. With rising public health concerns surrounding novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we are doing everything we can to limit its potential spread.

In light of the recommendation from health officials, Walker|West will be transitioning to a remote learning platform on a temporary basis starting the week of March 16th. Current students and families will receive details about their lessons via email.

Future updates will be sent to families and students and will also be posted on our website and our social media platforms. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Walker|West Student Services at 651.224.2929 or info@walkerwest.org.

 

 

Register for Session 3 Lessons Today!

Register for Session 3 Music Lessons Today!

Girl playing the trumpet

Registration is open for Walker|West’s Session 3 music lessons. Whether you are a new or continuing student, please call 651-224-2929 or register online to reserve your preferred lesson time, day and instructor. Session 3 begins February 10 and ends April 25.

We’re looking forward to making music with you!

Insight News Features From R & B to Gospel

Insight News Features “From R&B to Gospel”

Check out the excellent article in Insight News about our upcoming free concert, From R&B to Gospel, with Robert Robinson, Debbie Duncan and William Duncan. There are still seats available. RSVP today. The article is reproduced below.

Robinson, Duncan & Duncan to perform free concert at Walker West

Walker West Music Academy (WWMA), 760 Selby Ave., St. Paul, will be transformed by a concert featuring Robinson and Duncan & Duncan – three of the most premiere living music legends in the Twin Cities area.

William Duncan, Debbie Duncan, and Robert Robinson will perform gospel, jazz and R&B songs with the background vocals of the WDP (William Duncan Project). This free concert takes place Saturday (Nov. 16) at 7:30 p.m. and is the third of four presentations of the Rondo Community Music Series presented by WWMA and Harlan Boss Foundation.

The purpose of the concert series is to highlight the work of teaching artists at WWMA, and the organization’s mission to create a music learning community rooted in the African-American cultural experience, where people of all ages and backgrounds can gather, explore and grow through music. Specifically, the concert series is a platform for teaching and performing artists to feature presentations of music rooted in the African-American cultural experience, provide provocative premiers of new music and provide distinct approaches.

The Robinson, Duncan & Duncan concert will be led by William Duncan, a teaching and performing artist that has taught youth and adults piano, organ, and vocals at WWMA since 2006 when he arrived in Minnesota. He teaches a range of genres including gospel, classical and jazz.

As music became a strong influence in his life from youth to adulthood, he encourages his students by asking them what music does for them and how does it speak to them.

“Music is just another form of communication. Make it sing,” said William Duncan. “Let it gravitate towards you. It has to be ingrained in you. Let it speak. Sing and speak what God has given you. I like to see where students come from creatively.”

William Duncan credits the founders of WWMA, The Rev. Carl Walker and Grant West, for creating a space where teaching and performing artists can thrive. Additionally, he credits them for students having learned and traversed the world performing with the skills they have acquired at the school.

“They are so inspirational and great motivators. I love them dearly,” William Duncan said. “(As a teaching and performing artist you walk in WWMA and) everyone is working on a project. There is music all the time. I am paid for playing. I am more inspired to do what I do.”

He strongly encourages prospective students to come to WWMA for instruction because, “it’s one of the best schools in the country. You don’t find too many schools that share the love. Not many still striving for community period. Students are going on to do great things. I pay homage to the founders. They have been a great inspiration to an abundance of people.”

William Duncan encourages the public to come to the Robinson, Duncan & Duncan concert, which includes his sister, a renowned talent in her own right.

“You will be inspired and you won’t walk out the same,” said the instructor and musician.

For more information on the Robinson, Duncan & Duncan concert contact WWMA at (651) 224-2929 or visit www.walkerwest.org.

7 Reasons to Support Walker West

Our Seven Reasons to Support Walker|West

Give Now to our Give to the Max Day Campaign

Support Walker|West today, and help us continue to provide programs like:

  1. The Rondo Community Music Series, a free series of concerts and community-building.

 

  1. Summer Music Camp, where students learn to play 4 instruments and sing in a choir in just 3 weeks!

 

  1. Summer Jazz Intensive, where students learned improvisation, music theory, jazz history, and playing together in an ensemble.

Drummer

 

  1. Music for Families, a collaboration between Walker|West and Sing Play Learn with MacPhail®, this program is open to parents with children ages 0 to 4. Now Walker|West offers music programs for students from infants to senior citizens.

 

  1. Master Classes, including last month’s workshop with jazz great Terence Blanchard and a potential Februrary 2020 workshop with Iraqi-American composer/jazz trumpeter Amir ElSaffar.

 

Jazz Trumpeter Terence Blanchard

  1. Community involvement. Can music instruction help close the achievement gap between minority and white students in St. Paul? Walker|West instructors are working with Barack and Michelle Obama Elementary School to find out. Walker|West co-founder Grant West will provide piano/keyboard instruction and internationally known percussionist Babatunde Lea will teach a percussion class to the young scholars at Obama Elementary, where 80 percent of students are persons of color. We’re also collaborating with St. Paul’s High School of the Recording Arts. 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.

 

  1. Our Mission: Walker|West creates a music learning community rooted in the African-American cultural experience, where people of all ages and backgrounds can gather, explore, and grow through music.

 

Please Contribute Today!

Register for Session 2 Lessons Today!

It’s Time to Register for Session 2 Lessons

Young sax playerRegistration is open for Walker|West’s Session 2 music lessons. Whether you are a new or continuing student, please call 651-224-2929 or register online to reserve your preferred lesson time, day and instructor. Session 2 begins November 18 and ends February 8.

We’re looking forward to making music with you!

 

 

October Newsletter

Walker|West Accents & Illuminations

October 2019 Newsletter

 

CURRENT PROGRAMS

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.

 

NEW PROGRAMS

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
OR
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.

 

RONDO COMMUNITY MUSIC SERIES

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
Walker|West
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.

Five Ways to Support Walker West

Five Ways to Support Walker West

When it comes to supporting Walker West, you’ve got options. Here are five ways to make a tax-deductible contribution that will make a difference in the lives of our students and our community.

1. Payroll deduction: If your company is in the midst of an employee giving campaign, consider making a gift to Walker West. Many employers match employee contributions, doubling the significance of your contribution. You can often designate how you’d like your contribution timed: one-time payment, monthly or by pay period.

2. Direct, employer-matched gifts: Your employer may match your contribution even if the company does not offer a payroll deduction program. To find out if your employer will match your gift to Walker West:

  • Ask the Human Resources Officer where you work if there is a charitable matching gift program (hundreds of companies—large and small—have one).
  • If the answer is “yes,” ask for a Matching Gift Form and complete your portion. (You’ll need Walker West’s employer identification number, or EIN: 41-1678368.)
  • Send the form with your gift to Walker West Music Academy. That’s all it takes to double the good you do.

3. Give to the Max Day, Nov. 14, 2019: Join thousands of Minnesotans who will show their support for their favorite charities by contributing online at givemn.org.

4. Annual Giving Campaign: Each November, Walker West asks friends and families to support our mission through a financial contribution. Watch for our letter, and consider making a gift. No amount is too large or too small.

5. Individual Gifts: Contribute any amount, any time in the manner that is most convenient for you:

  • Online at Walkerwest.org
  • By phone: Call 651-224-2929
  • In person
  • By mail: Send your check to Walker West Music Academy, 760 Selby Ave., St. Paul, MN 55104

Thank you for supporting Walker West!

Walker West Music Academy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.