Author Archives: Brad

Spring ’19 Solo Recital!

The end of the school year is fast approaching, and we want to send you into summer on a high note with our spring solo recital.  Your children have been working so hard to prepare for these performances over the past weeks and months, so here’s the details you need to know for the day.

The recital will be held on Sunday, May 19 at 2:00 p.m. at The Fulton School at St. Albans (123 Schoolhouse Rd, St. Albans, MO 63073).  We’re so thankful to The Fulton School for offering to share their wonderful space with us, and we’re looking forward to filling their Keeping Room with beautiful music, and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature all around.

Our plan is to hold one single, large recital as opposed to the three smaller recitals we usually hold, so that all of us can enjoy each other’s performances and then join all together for a potluck dinner afterward.  Kirby and I will be providing sandwiches and drinks, and we’re asking that each family bring a main dish or side dish to share with everyone.  Please sign up in the studio to let us know what dish you will be bringing!

Piano rehearsals will be held in our studio on Tuesday, May 14 beginning at 2:00 p.m.  If you are unsure whether your child needs a rehearsal, or how much rehearsal time you should sign them up for, please check with your teacher.  To sign up for a rehearsal time, please click here.

And finally, please remember that the dress code for our performances is “dress casual” (i.e. no jeans, t-shirts, tennis shoes, and the like).  A good guideline is khakis or dress slacks for boys with a polo or button down dress shirt and dress shoes, tie optional; and dress slacks or a skirt with a dress blouse or a semi-formal dress for girls.

We look forward to seeing you all on the 19th!

Summer ’19 Registration is Now Open!

It’s hard to believe that another school year is already nearing its completion.  At the same time, when we look back at how much our students have grown (both literally, in many cases, and in their abilities as musicians!) it’s clear that this has been a very full, productive, and memorable school year.

In fact, at the end of each school year Kirby and I find ourselves saying to one another that this most recent year has been our best – even better than all the great ones that came before it.  I believe that one contributing factor to that ever-increasing excellence is our commitment as teachers to be lifelong learns – students of both our instruments and of the art of teaching.  We hope, plan, and take the steps to be better teachers each day than the day before, each week than the week before, and each year than the year before.

Another huge part of the excellence of this past school year is the commitment of each and every one of the students that we work with and their families to invest their time and energy into their personal practice, development of musical habits, and the community of West County Strings.  Each year, I believe an environment is cultivated amongst the families that we work with that fosters growth, and for that I am beyond proud and grateful.

The next big thing on our horizon is the Spring ’19 Semester.  We don’t hold formal group classes over the summer like we do during the school year, because we know so many students and their families will be in and out of town.  However, we would love to see each and every one of you for private lessons as often as we can, and we hope to sprinkle in some ensemble learning opportunities throughout the summer, as well.

So, if you’re a returning student, Summer ’19 Registration and submit it to your teacher as soon as possible!  And if you’re a new family considering lessons at West County Strings, now is the perfect time to get in touch – come observe some lessons, schedule a trial lesson or two, get a feel for what we do here.  We’d love to have you join us for this summer and the school year ahead!

March ’19 Update

It’s been a long, cold St. Louis winter, but spring is just around the corner, as is Spring Break at West County Strings.  Our Spring Break will run from Sunday, March 17 – Sunday, March 24, during which time there will be no private lessons or group classes.  We hope you all enjoy a little bit of rest and relaxation, particularly because when we come back from break, things get busy!

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Following break, we will have 1 more Tuesday-evening group class prior to the Spring Festival dress rehearsal and group performance on Sunday, March 31.  Dress rehearsal will begin at 1:00 p.m. and run until 3:00 p.m. and run in reverse concert order, meaning Ensemble will rehearse first and Pre-Twinklers will not need to arrive until closer to 3:00.  The concert will begin at 3:30.  Both rehearsal and the concert will be held in the sanctuary of Chesterfield Presbyterian Church, 15037 Clayton Rd.  And just in case you’re unsure what all repertoire you need to know, here’s the rep list.

Two weeks following the Spring Festival, students who have opted to participate in the Missouri Federation of Music Clubs’ festival will have their performances at St. Charles Community College.  Schedules for the event have yet to be released, but based on prior years students should expect their performances to be held in the afternoon of Sunday, April 14.  Rehearsals will be available with accompanist Daniel Fry on the afternoons of Tuesday April 2 or 9 in preparation for the festival.  Details will be sent to participating families in the near future.

And finally, Spring Solo Recitals will be held on the afternoon of Sunday, April 28.  Pieces for the solo recitals must be memorized no later than one month prior to the performance, or in this case roughly the end of March.  Your teacher will be helping you select your piece in the next few weeks.  Recitals are tentatively scheduled to be held in the KREW Room of Chesterfield Presbyterian Church, 15037 Clayton Rd.  

On a personal note, I want to share how encouraged I am by the number of students and families who are putting in consistent, careful practice this school year.  Many have been consistent – even daily – practicers for years, and are reaping the rewards of developing such wonderful habits.  Many more are putting in the hard work of developing new, productive habits this school year and this semester, and I am seeing the transformation.  You may be familiar with Dr. Suzuki’s mantra, “Practice only on the days you eat!”  When I was a child, I thought that this must surely be hyperbole, intended to scare students in the right direction.  As an adult, however, I increasingly see that the practice of a daily routine is something very fundamental to the way our bodies and our minds are wired, and this doesn’t just apply to building skill at a musical instrument, but any skill we want to develop (if you haven’t had a chance, take a look at the book The Talent Code on the coffee table in the studio).  So, know that your hard work is making a difference, and it is noticed.  And let’s continue to build even more successes on top of your current success!

And last but certainly not least, I want to thank all of you for the way that you have supported each other as a studio and a program this school year in switching lesson times with one another when a scheduling conflict has arisen for a student or their family.  I think we may have had a record number of needs arise thus far this school year, and yet I think fewer lessons have been missed than ever before.  This consistency has certainly paid off in a level of quality across the studio.  Thank you all for lending each other a helping hand.

See you all this week, for our final lessons and group classes before break!

Spring Festival ’19 Repertoire List

As you all hopefully know, our Spring Festival group performance is just around the corner, on Sunday, March 31.  For details about the day and location, please see our March studio update.  But, for the repertoire that you need to know for that day by heart, and should be able to play at 2 a.m. if a bucket of cold water got splashed in your face, read below!  If you have any questions at all about whether you are responsible for a particular piece, ask your teacher as soon as possible.

A Majors
Chicken on a Fencepost Variations
Paw Paw Patch
Hoedown
Old Brass Wagon Variations
Happy Fiddling
Take a Turn Twinkle

G Majors
Twinkles
Lightly Row
Song of the Wind
Allegro
Long, Long Ago
Happy Farmer
Minuet (Bk. 3)
Gavotte in G minor
Humoresque

Viola Choir
Minuet 1
Chorus from Judas Maccabeaus

Circle of 5ths
All G Majors repertoire +
Vivaldi A minor, 1st, 2nd, & 3rd mvmts

Ensemble
Seitz No. 5, 1st mvmt (w/ orchestra)
Serenade
Millionaire’s Hoedown (pull out group)
Mystery Waltz (Karen, Jemuel, Tarini)

Happy practicing!

Virtuoso Club Festival ’19

The Spring Semester is well underway, and one of the events we look forward to this spring is the Virtuoso Club’s Festival on the weekend of April 13-14 at St. Charles Community College.

The Virtuoso Club is a St. Louis-based chapter of the National Federation of Music Clubs, and holds events and provides opportunities for young musicians in the St. Louis area throughout the year.  Their Festival is their annual highlight, with a variety of events and performances throughout the weekend.

At the Festival, students ages 7 and up have the opportunity to play their selected pieces for a judge, receive feedback on their playing, earn points towards prizes, win the opportunity to be featured on a recital, and even compete for college scholarships.  Kirby and I can help you figure out what pieces would be best to prepare, and help you work toward this goal.

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Registration is $27 per student, and your entry must be submitted by your teacher no later than February 14.  So, if you’re interested, please let Kirby or I know as soon as possible so we can work out the details with you and make sure everything is in order.  We’ll try to ask each of you individually in lessons, as well.  I think it’s great to take these kinds of opportunity to perform “under pressure,” but in an environment that is very intentionally student-friendly and positive.  We look forward to having you join us this year!

January ’19 Update

This week, we begin a new year at West County Strings, which means for each and every one of us an opportunity to reflect on everything that took place in the past year, and also an opportunity to set goals for ourselves for this new year.  We’ll be setting goals with each student in lessons, but we encourage you all to take a moment beforehand and reflect:

What in your musical journey did you do well this past year?  What could you have done better?

What came to you easily in your musical studies?  What was difficult for you?

What do you consider your greatest strength as a musician?  How about your greatest weakness?  What would you most like to improve?

Where do you see yourself musically at the end of this month?  This semester?  This year?

The more clearly you can envision what you want your future self to be, the more capable you’ll be of becoming that person as we work together this year!

As we prepare to warm up after a bit of rest and get back into the swing of things, here are a few important dates and pieces of information to keep in mind:

  • Private lessons resume this Friday, January 4.  We look forward to seeing you all again, and bringing some fresh ideas, approaches, and inspirations into our work together!
  • Group classes resume next Tuesday, January 8.  Group classes are a part of what sets us apart, and a major factor in a well-rounded musical development.  We’re very much looking forward to seeing you all in groups again!
  • Tuition for the spring semester (or payment 1 of 4 for the spring semester if you have opted to pay for the school year in installments) is due by Tuesday, January 15.  Please let us know if you need reminded of your remaining balance or installment amount.

And finally, I know it’s a bit cliché, but I really do love the list of “10 Things That Require 0 Talent” that seems to pop up around the beginning of the year every year.  Perhaps you’ve seen this a million times, or perhaps it’s new to you.

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As food for thought, Time did an article on these arguing that they are indeed talents that can be cultivated, and I think there’s certainly some validity to that.   These are all areas in which we can – and should – aim to improve in 2019, along with our tone, intonation, posture, bow hold, shifting, vibrato, bow strokes, dynamics, phrasing, musicality, and everything else that goes into our playing!

And with that, we’ll look forward to seeing you all within the next week!

Prokofiev – Romeo & Juliet: Montagues and Capulets

I can remember few more powerful moments in my life than being on stage performing Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, particularly the first selection from the second Suite: Montagues and Capulets.

The music is intended to accompany a ballet, which in turn tells the story of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  Montagues and Capulets are two warring families, which this music conveys quite well.

From the driving power of the basses, to the dissonance in the strings, the staccato attacks of the percussion, and the volume of the brass, the tension is palpable.  Make sure you listen from 1:25 to the end!