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.


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