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 (tonya@walkerwest.org) 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.


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