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Walker|West 2021 Founders Award Recipients

Congratulations to Asla Hashel – 2021 Founders Award Recipient

Asla Hashel

ASLA HASHEL, 2021 Founders Award Recipient

Viola, 10 yrs

High School: Woodbury High School
Instructor: Earl Ross

Share a favorite memory from Walker|West.
Playing with the hip hop duo Black Violin at the Ordway.

Musically ( and generally ) what are your plans going forward?
I plan to attend Emory University in the fall, and hope to participate in both lessons and the orchestral programs offered. I am currently undecided on my major, but I hope to follow the pre-dental track during my time at University.

What has been the benefit/ importance of music education in your life?

Music education has allowed me to perceive the world in a colorful manner. Everything we experience can be connected or traced back to music, from the daily mundane chores of our lives to the exhilarating events that map our existence. The training I have received has allowed me to see those connections and make sense of them, making my day more vivid and exciting.

Any words of encouragement or advice for those who are just beginning their own musical journeys?
Making sure you implement a daily regimen of scales and etudes is critical in achieving the most optimal results. Scales and etudes can absolutely feel boring, but your technique will improve immensely and difficult solo pieces will soon seem a lot easier. I, myself, still struggle with upkeeping these skills, so I would recommend starting early and creating good habits in your fingers.

Testimonial from Earl Ross:

To say that the years pass seemingly with the blink of an eye is cliché. And yet that’s exactly how it feels when I think of the years getting to know Asla. Like her older sister Ariam who graduated just last year from high school, I’ve known Asla since she was a toddler. Three years of age to be exact. And though she started viola lessons formally at Walker|West as a 4th grader, she was preparing to do music long before then. As the third Hashel to study a string instrument and the second violist in the family, Asla had something to prove and would bristle at the notion of “following” her sisters. In fact, one of the earliest decisions I had to make was to ensure that whatever her sister Ariam played, Asla was not interested in doing. I had to come up with a parallel set of pieces for viola that would aid in her progress as a violist but would not overlap (for the most part) with what her sister was studying. That independence coupled with her maturity and curiosity remained constant in the nearly 9 years of working with her. She’s probably the only viola student in the area to study the Cambini Viola Concerto which was a result of me having to pull out lesser standard works to satisfy her request to not study the same things her sisters studied. This desire to follow a path less traveled, sparked an extraordinary interest in the works of 20th century composers. Asla would light up talking about such composers as Rebecca Clarke and Max Reger.

Recently, during one of our remote lessons, she remarked about the beauty of works by black composers, like Florence Price, and how that interest was instigated while participating in Sphinx. Nope… no baroque for her, at least not too much. Save that for her sisters!

The sibling rivalry between she and her sister Ariam didn’t end with the music. As members of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies, the viola sisters were placed on the same stand once (i.e., they were made to sit next to each during a semester and concert). When I heard about this arrangement, I thought, this could be WW III in the making! Fortunately, the folks at MYS learned from their misstep and never did that again.

Asla’s music accomplishments are quite long. In addition to her membership in MYS (at all levels), Asla has been a long-time participant in the Ataria Chamber Music School where her quartet placed in the Saint Paul String Quartet Competition and participated in the Sphinx Performance Academy for three years in a row, performing at Cleveland Institute of Music and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. At Sphinx, performed in two masterclasses, including one with the President of Curtis and internationally acclaimed violist, Roberto Diaz. She is a Roderick Cox Music Initiative Fellow and was selected to participate at the Brevard Music Institute and Festival in North Carolina. When she is not practicing her viola, Asla can be found playing the clarinet for her high school band which she has done for the past four years or studying for her advanced level classes. Any one of these accomplishments would make any teacher proud. However, what I will cherish most is watching the beautiful deeply curious and fearless human being I first met when she was just 3 years old grow into the thoughtful mature, humble young adult she has become. As Asla heads off to university, our string community will miss her musicality but can’t wait see what she does in the part of her journey. Congratulations to you and all the best for your future endeavors!

Congratulations to Rowan Peters – 2021 Founders Award Recipient

Rowan Peters

ROWAN PETERS, 2021 Founders Award Recipient

Piano, 8 years

High school: Edison High School, Minneapolis
Instructor: Mr. Duncan

Share a favorite memory from Walker|West. Getting to practice on the Grand Piano in the performance room.

Musically ( and Generally ) what are your plans going forward? I’m going to UW Stout for Computer Science with a focus in Game Design, and I plan to continue playing piano in my free time.

What has been the benefit/importance of music education in your life?

Learning to play the piano has allowed me to compose some of my own pieces and better understand what I’m playing as well as how to play it.

Any words of wisdom/ encouragement for those just beginning their musical journey? Don’t let the complexity of a song deter you from trying to learn it. Continue to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and keep practicing!

Testimonial from Mr. Duncan:

Rowan Peters began his journey of piano studies here at Walker West Music academy when he was 12 years of age, (approximately 6 1/2 years ago. He was rather shy but talented and showed a great interest for classical music. Over a period of time, we began to explore different genres of piano and piano literacy as he shared with me a great interest in video game music.

Often, he would come to his lesson and would play for me various kinds of music that he obtained from either a video game or a new song from a movie that he had seen. since his tenure began, he has played at every recital that Walker West has had encountering various genres of Music, such as Vince Gueraldi’s Cast Your Fate to the Wind, Mozart’s Turkish March, Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor, and more recently, Eric Satie’s Trois Gymnopedies and Sergio Mendes’s mas Que Nada. Rowan has also done 2 Honor’s Recitals within the past 3 years, (minus 2020 because of the pandemic). he has also performed for us virtually the song, ‘That’s The Way It Is’ by Bruce Hornsby. While in high school, he expressed that he had a chance to play in his High School’s Rock Band as one of the known community activities that he has shared with me.

I have watch this gentleman grow not only as an up and coming musician, but also as an outstanding and highly intelligent young man who will be an asset to any college he attends. His musicianship has continually maintained excellence since his beginnings.

Congratulations to Miles Pretel and Erik McCready (Honorable Mentions)

MILES PRETEL, Piano, 10 Years

High school: Open World Learning Community

Instructor(s): Jacob Dodd has been my primary instructor since I first started at Walker West, but I’ve also learned from a lot of great teachers through the ensembles and summer camp. Felix James, Kevin Washington, Jack Breen, and Kavyesh Kaviraj to name a few.

Share a favorite memory from Walker|West.

Around when I first started taking lessons here, I went to see the senior recital for the graduating class. For the last song the ensemble did a rendition of Charles Mingus’ song Moanin’ that really moved me. That was a really big inspirational moment that showed me the power of music and motivated me to keep working at it. By the fall I was playing in that same ensemble (not because I was any good but because the old piano player had graduated), playing alongside and learning from some of the same people I was inspired by.

 Musically ( and Generally ) what are your plans going forward? I am going to Columbia College Chicago in the fall to continue my study of piano and music production, with a possible minor or double major in something else. No matter what I end up doing beyond college I hope that music will always be a big part of my life. 

 What has been the benefit/importance of music education in your life? Music education has given me a creative and emotional outlet that has become a passion of mine. I’ve learned a lot about work ethic, perseverance, and have become a part of a positive and uplifting community.

Any words of wisdom/ encouragement for those just beginning their musical journey? Keep putting in the work and it will pay off.

Testimonial from Jacob Dodd:

I’ve had the honorable pleasure to work with Miles since the beginning of his adolescence. He has blossomed beautifully into a well rounded musician. From a classical background transformed to jazz, he has developed his own sound to be set apart from the usual. I’m very excited to see where his talents will take him. I’m looking forward and expecting to hear great things from Miles!

ERIK MCCREADY, Drums, 4 years

High School: Central High School, Saint Paul

Instructors: Kevin Washington, Solomon Parham, Gerard Ahlgren, and Ernest Bisong

Share a favorite memory from Walker|West. I was in a jazz ensemble for 4 years and then I started taking drum lessons with Kevin. Kevin encouraged me to join their digital goes live program where I learned about music production. 

Musically ( and Generally ) what are your plans going forward? There were some times at walker west when my instructors would just provide insight into life. Specifically in the digital goes live program. I learned so much from my teachers about feeling in music and just how to be thoughtful in life in general. 

What has been the benefit/importance of music education in your life? I plan to continue making music wherever I go. Whether it is playing drums, or music production or just listening to music. Music is such a big part of my life and I don’t ever see that changing.  Currently, I am planning on attending the University of Denver in Colorado. 

Music Education has most obviously taught me how to be a better musician, but also through my music-making I have had incredible experiences playing with people, and just hanging out making music. I learned a lot just from being around music. 

Any words of wisdom/ encouragement for those just beginning their musical journey?

For people who are just starting out with music, I would say that music is an amazing thing. I think that music can be really hard sometimes, especially when you can do everything you want with it. Eventually, if you put in the time you can get to where you want to be and have the experiences you want to have. whether that is just playing a song you want to play, Being a professional musician, or just being able to feel what it is like to be a part of something so special. Music can bring you so much joy.

Testimonial for Kevin Washington:

I’ve had the great pleasure of giving private drum lessons to Erik McCready over the past two years. Erik has grown tremendously since the first time I met him. He has a hunger and passion to learn multiple styles of music. It has made my job easy to educate him. Erik represents what Walker|West is about.

In addition to private lessons, Erik plays the piano, participates in a jazz ensemble and is part of the Digital Music Production program. He’s become a good composer in that class. Now, Erik will take his talents to the University of Denver in the fall, where I know he’ll excel because of his dedication and well rounded musical foundation.

Catch more features of our 14 other graduating seniors social media: Follow Walker|West on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like these.

To support the work of Walker|West join our giving community:

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:

“You Think You Can Handle It?”, Elijah Awada Says Thanks

“You Think You Can Handle It?”, Elijah Awada Says Thanks

Our instructors are the backbone of our work, bringing the healing power of music to Walker|West students each year.

Here Elijah Awada reflects on the impact of his time learning from Walker|West faculty member Mr. William Duncan:

Dear Mr. Duncan,

I am writing to you today to bid you a proper farewell and to express my immense gratitude for all the wisdom, encouragement and guidance you have offered me in my years as your student. You have always said that I am a man of few words. My quiet, introverted nature has often prevented me from adequately conveying my ideas and emotions, especially in moments of great significance. With this letter, I hope to express how important your influence, along with that of Walker|West has been in my growth as a musician and as an emerging adult.

When I first came to Walker|West at the age of 9 or 10, I was about four and a half feet tall with a giant mound of hair on my head and an eagerness to be a musician. I remember my first few lessons with you and how amazed I was by your effortless touch and firm command of the piano. I would smile from ear to ear as I tried to keep up with your hands as they danced on the keys and made sounds that I had never heard before. All I wanted, really, was to watch you play, but you made sure that I was the one playing for the majority of each lesson. In those early days, you planted a seed in me that turned my interest in music into a passion. I told myself that one day, I would be able to play and understand music on the same level that you did. That aspiration holds true today, although I’m still far from achieving it.

Today, I am 18 years old, six feet-two inches, and I have tamed my hair a bit. Looking back on these years, all the lessons, recitals, and home practice sessions, I can say that under your instruction, I have come a long way. You have introduced me to an incredible variety of genres and composers, we have worked on pieces from the likes of J.S. Bach, Mozart, and Rachmaninoff, as well as Herbie Hancock, Vince Guaraldi, and Jean -Lue Ponty. You have instilled in me a respect for fundamentals, etiquette, and mechanics, while also stressing the importance of truly feeling and hearing what I am playing. You have worked me tirelessly on scales and fingering, which after a long while, I have become very grateful for.

You have brought me to every corner of the Walker|West building to receive valuable feedback from many different musical perspectives. You have given me the historical context to all of the music that I have played, including explaining to me the role of the african american community in pioneering a vast majority of what we consider American Music. You have even given me the tools to find my own sound and composition style. Like I’ve said in the past. “It’s all your fault!” What I really mean by that, is thank you. Thank you for your wisdom, humor, patience, and care as you lead me through each theory concept and piece of music. Your interactive teaching style has developed me as both a performer and observer of music. I now understand the difference between knowing how to play something versus knowing what it is that I’m playing. It has drastically expanded the limits of my abilities.

To conclude this letter, I would like to say one final thank you and goodbye. I am incredibly grateful for the support you have shown me in my work at Walker|West, as well as in my personal endeavors. Your belief in me is empowering. It is very difficult for me to part with something that has had such a profound impact on my being, but the gift of music I’ve received at Walker|West will last me a lifetime. In times of joy or suffering, music will always be there to offer me comfort. The road ahead is bound to throw many obstacles in my way, but each time I am met with a challenge I will hear your voice saying, “You think you can handle it?” And to that, I will reply, “Yes, I can”.

Thank You, Mr. Duncan. I will keep in touch, and will be back to visit Walker|West often.

Forever your student,
Elijah Awada

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.

Artist As Activist, Healer, Witness

“Music can heal the wounds which medicine cannot touch.”

– Debasish Mridha

Artist As Activist, Healer, Witness

Sherine Onukwuwe

Most of my summer days enduring the COVID-19 pandemic were spent indulging in music. Music got me through.

My daughter in the yard with me on the porch sanding, staining, or painting some unfinished, up-cycled furniture project of mine. All-the-while sipping on ginger beer and listening to Alice Coltrane on my half-working, very sometime-y, bluetooth speaker. Waving occasionally to a neighbor or two and keeping keen eye on the dog walkers to ensure they guide their furry pals toward the boulevard rather than the yard proper. The 25th of May wasn’t much different, just finding a way forward in our new normal.

Unbeknownst to me, just 9.9 miles away from my stoop of secured serenity, Mr. George Perry Floyd Jr. would walk into a convenience store in South Minneapolis, where a store clerk would allege that he intentionally tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. The police were called, Floyd was handcuffed and pinned to the asphalt by his neck, expiring under the weight of officer Derek Chauvin’s knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. His last breath would come in less time than it takes to listen to Miles Davis’ 1959 Columbia Records recording of, “So What”.

After the video captured by a young woman, who witnessed the murder went viral, the Twin Cities was ablaze with protests for justice. Igniting a dormant rage over the many straws that lay upon the camel’s back. Many cities throughout the country would join while grappling with the unjust murders of their own George Floyds at the hands of police. As an artist, I began to think about what the soundtrack of this moment would sound like. I thought back to the days on my porch in summer. I remembered the ginger beer, and the music that made my porch a healing, restorative space. How could we as artists witness this moment, how could we speak to the pain, the frustration and normalcy of police brutality on Black Bodies and Black Lives?

In the wake of this unrest, local artists began responding with ink, paint, sculpture, and music. One artist in particular created a multimedia video meditation inspired by the tragedy that took place on Memorial Day. World renowned violinist and Co-Artistic Director of the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota, Ariana Kim premiered her, “How Many Breaths?- In Memory of George Floyd and Countless Others,” here at Walker|West Music Academy virtually. This piece featured original music, spoken word, images and video of moving street art and demonstration footage from the Twin Cities.

Collaborators Lou Bellamy and Sara Bellamy of Penumbra Center for Racial Healing, Composer Steve Heitzeg along with over 300 audience members dove into a discussion about injustice and harnessing pain and healing through the expression of music. I was the moderator for that discussion as a part of my new role here at Walker|West. One thing that came out of the dialogue with Ariana was the suggestion to take her performance piece to the ground level of location murals. Specifically visiting the mural in George Floyd Square marking where George Floyd took his last breath to fully experience the weight of what occurred.

As the country and world continue to confront problematic systemic racism, the soundtrack must continue to be recreated moving us to feel, to think, to engage, to act, and above all not to be silenced.

View the emotive piece original piece, “How Many Breaths?…” by Ariana Kim here:

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.

Walker|West 2020 Founder’s Awardee – Ariam Hashel

Walker|West 2020 Founder’s Award Recipient – Ariam Hashel

Each year, Walker|West Music Academy acknowledges our graduating seniors for their commitment to their music education. This year, we honor the Class of 2020 for their perseverance through the Covid-19 Pandemic and moments of community unrest in response to systemic injustice. Additionally, the Walker|West Founders Award is presented to one student who has shown exemplary musicianship and dedication to their music training.

Picture of 2020 Honors Awardee Ariam Hashel

We are pleased to announce violist Ariam Hashel as our 2020 Founders Award recipient.

At 9 years old Ariam was excited to learn an instrument, when seeing her older sibling taking violin lessons at Walker|West. Her musical advancement speaks loudly, and she attributes her academic success to the tools she obtained through individual lessons and as an assistant for our Summer Music Camp. During her near decade of study with us, Ariam has also participated in numerous well known music programs such as the Artaria Chamber Music School and Sphinx Performance Academy. She exemplifies the mission of Walker|West, which is to gather, explore, and grow through music.

Her instructor Earl Ross, shared a few notes on Ariam’s dazzling and community-centered musical career:

In the time I’ve worked with Ariam, I’ve watched her grow from a beginner student tentatively drawing her bow across strings for the first time to an accomplished young violist playing Bach, Schubert and Hofmeister.

Even as Ariam has participated in music activities, she has maintained an outstanding academic record throughout the years. But perhaps as important or more important, has been Ariam’s commitment and ability to foster community. At times shy and self-effacing, she has been that student who offers to help younger less confident students work through a particularly difficult passage or technique. Or finds a way to make a new student feel more comfortable. Often, it is her voice cheering the loudest when a student completes her/his piece during a string recital.

Ariam will attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN this fall. She plans to participate in “a plethora of music programs at the Blair School of Music.”

Congratulations Ariam from the entire Walker|West village. Thank you for making our music learning community strong.

2020 Founder’s Award Honorable Mentions

We are also incredibly proud of our Founders Award finalists, Elijah Awada and Benjamin Bauer, who have both shown a high level of commitment to their music education, and have grown tremendously in recent years. Both of these students are enrolled in individual lessons and participate in various Walker|West Jazz Ensembles. Their instructors wish them continued success.

The 2020 graduating class of High School Seniors include:
(View Student Spotlights on our facebook page by clicking their names)

Ariam Hashel, (viola) Individual Lessons, Summer Music Camp assistant

Elijah Awada, (piano) Individual Lessons, Jazz Ensemble
Ben Bauer, (bass) Individual Lessons, Jazz Ensemble, Summer Jazz Intensive, Summer Music Camp assistant

Max Walker, (saxophone) Jazz Ensemble
Colin Karp, (saxophone) Jazz Ensemble
Eli Soss, (saxophone) Jazz Ensemble
Elliot Wall, (drums) Jazz Ensemble

Eli Zukor-Zimmerman, (bass/drums) Individual lessons
Sergo Amanuel Abraha, (piano) Individual Lessons
Stella LaCroix-Dalluhn, (piano) Individual Lessons

These students add to the legacy of Walker|West Music Academy, showcasing the impact of our programming and power of our community. We are proud of each of them for reaching this milestone, and wish them success in their future endeavors. Congratulations, Class of 2020!

To join our donor community and make music education possible for more students like these visit: