Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D min

There are, of course, a million things that one could point out as being done excellently, here.  As a teacher, however, I couldn’t help but immediately notice how well this young man was doing all the basics while performing something complex, and complex this piece is – it’s the longest and most technically challenging from the cornerstone of violin repertoire that is Bach’s 6 Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin.

“Look how low and relaxed his violin thumb is!” I was saying to myself as I watched him play.

“Look how curved and tall his violin fingers are!”

“Look how close he keeps his fingers to the strings to minimize effort and maximize accuracy!”

These are all things that we talk about in various ways and at different levels in lessons every week!  What a great example this is of someone who has turned all those individual ideas into habits that form the foundation of his masterful playing.  Please take the time to watch and enjoy!

Community Spotlight: The Uyemuras

Each summer, we are excited to send students and their families from our studios off to Suzuki Institutes around the country.

This year, we are thrilled that Ethan and Owen Uyemura, along with their mom Mitzi, will have the opportunity to the American Suzuki Institute in Stevens Point, WI after attending the Institute for their first time last summer.  Mitzi has even kindly offered to share about their experience with us all in the fall!


If you haven’t ever taken the chance to go to an Institute, you may be wondering exactly what goes on there.  Well, Suzuki Institutes:

  • Are 1-2 week long intensive music camps that often take place on a college campus.
  • Students and their families can stay in the college dorms, though some opt to stay in hotels close by the campus.
  • Students attend daily classes that include: (1) a “master class” private lesson, where they and 2-3 other students their age and level each get individual time with a teacher and get to observe each others’ lessons, too; (2) a group technique class; (3) a group repertoire class; (4) orchestra and/or chamber classes for more advanced students.
  • Each day, usually right after lunch and in the evening, there are student, faculty, and special performer recitals, so you get to hear tons of music and some really exceptional performances.
  • There are also special classes on a wide variety of topics ranging from yoga for string players to care and maintenance of your instrument.
  • Activities like hiking, kayaking, stand volleyball, etc. are organized, but there is also free time if families want to get away and explore local attractions.

If I were to summarize my own feelings, I’d say that there’s no place on earth quite like a Suzuki Institute.  You’re surrounded by people who want to learn morning to night, you’re surrounded by music, you’ll have some really exceptional experiences, and you’ll get away from the distractions and get to spend some truly special time with your family.   I can’t think of a more positive, energizing, fun thing to do every summer.  So, if you didn’t hop on the opportunity to attend and Institute this summer, be sure to keep it in mind for the next!

Spring Festival ’18 Recap

There have only been a few times in my life that I’ve performed something and lifted my bow at the end of the last note thinking, “Wow!  I totally nailed every last little detail of that.”  I think the feeling is actually more memorable and meaningful because it’s so rare.

Leaving the Spring Festival on Sunday, I had a feeling that everything had gone very well, but it wasn’t until I had a chance to sit down and listen to the recording of the concert that I literally said to myself, “Wow!”  You guys really nailed it!

Parents, I will be telling everyone during their lessons this week, but please convey to your kids that they did an exceptional job of preparing this semester, both in group classes and in private lessons, and they put on a truly wonderful performance.  They should be very proud of themselves, and I hope that you’re very proud of them, too.  I know I am!

It’s at times like these that I’m particularly reminded how fortunate we are to know and have the opportunity to work with such wonderful families.  We truly appreciate you all!

We’ve had a chance to go over a few of the photos from the afternoon, and we’d like to share them with you.  If you have any great moments that you captured and would like to share with us, please do!  We’d love to have them to commemorate the day.

Improvising with the National Symphony Orchestra

I grew up listening to Ben Folds on the radio as frontman of the alt rock group Ben Folds Five.  At the time, I didn’t know much about him, and certainly didn’t know about his exceptional improvisational skills.

As string players, we spend a lot of time listening, repeating what we hear, and working on developing the techniques required to play our instrument, which are numerous.  Improvising – or making up melodies on the spot – takes a whole other set of skills, or perhaps demonstrates a true mastery of the skills we all work so hard to develop.

Improvising requires that we know the principles of how melodies are built and what makes them sound right to our ears so well that we can put them into practice on the spot, without any prior preparation.  We have to know scales better than we know our arithmetic.  We have to be able to walk through chord progressions as well as we can walk to the fridge when the house is pitch black at night.  In short, music has to be living and breathing naturally inside us.  Getting to this place takes a lot of work!

We get an opportunity to practice some of these skills in the Doflein books that many of us are using for sight reading.  Those blank exercises where they ask you to fill in scales or melodies give us a chance to try out own hand at making something up, and then seeing whether it sounds appropriate or not.  If yes, why?  If not, why not?

In any case, enjoy watching Ben Folds demonstrate his mastery of the piano and improvising in this short video!

Spring Festival ’18

West County Strings’ 2018 Spring Festival is set for the afternoon of Sunday, April 29.  Dress rehearsals will run from 1:00-3:00 p.m., and the concert will begin at 3:30 p.m.  Reception to follow.  All events will be held at Chesterfield Presbyterian Church, 15037 Clayton Rd.  Read on for everything you need to know about the day!


Who Have You Invited?

For the past few years, we have been grateful to be welcomed to hold our Spring Festival at Chesterfield Presbyterian Church.  The space is awesome.  It is also large!  Your children have all worked so hard this semester to prepare for this concert, and we want them to have an audience as wonderful as their playing! So,

***We’re asking every student, every sibling, and every parent to invite at least one friend, classmate, colleague, or neighbor to come***

It will be a great afternoon of music, and there’s food and drinks to follow!

Now, I know you might be thinking, “Other families will invite people, I don’t need to do it.”  If that’s you, then this message is specifically for you!  Bring someone along.  It’s always a wonderful time.

Dress Rehearsal Schedule

– 1:00 p.m: Vivaldi 4 Seasons
– 1:20 p.m: Bach Double
– 1:40 p.m: Violas (Lully Gavotte, Musette, Etude, Swanee River)
– 2:00 p.m: Humoresque, Boccherini Minuet, Hunter’s Chorus
– 2:30 p.m: Gossec Gavotte, Minuet 2, Perpetual Motion, Allegro
– 2:45 p.m: Song of the Wind, Lightly Row, Twinkles, Chicken on a Fencepost, Old Brass Wagon, Paw Paw Patch

***Please arrive 15 minutes prior to your scheduled rehearsal start time in order to allow time to unpack, tune, and be prepared to begin right on time!***

Performance Attire

We ask that all students and their families wear their “Sunday best” for all performances.  This means no jeans, no tennis shoes or sandals, and no t-shirts.  Ball gowns and tuxedos are certainly not required, either!  Dress slacks, button-down shirts, and dress shoes are suitable for boys, and tasteful dresses or skirts/dress pants and blouses are appropriate for girls.

***All students whose performance requires sheet music must have their music in a black, 1/2-inch, 3-ring binder, preferably in plastic sheet protectors.***

Parent Volunteers

Do you have a favorite treat that is your specialty?  A punch recipe that is to die for?  Are you able to pick up a box of cookies or crackers or a bag of fruit on your way?  If so, we would love to have your contributions to this year’s reception.

***You can sign up online, or in the studio during your lesson.***

We are extremely grateful for your help!

Still Wondering… ?

Not sure if you know all the pieces you’ll be playing?  Check out the Spring Festival ’18 Repertoire List.  If you have any other questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask your teacher in your lesson or Mr. Brad at group class.  Speaking of group class, we only have classes the evenings of 4/17 and 4/24 left to prepare!  So we hope to see you there!

Summer ’18 Registration Now Open!

It may be hard to believe, with temperatures in the 30s as I write this, but summer is just around the corner!  And with summer comes the Summer ’18 Semester at West County Strings. Registration (you can get your form here) for the summer is due by May 19, and the summer semester will run from June 4 – August 17.

Kirby and I look forward to the opportunity to continue working with so many of you this summer, and to the opportunity to begin working with many more of you who have been patiently waiting for a lesson time to become available or who are considering lessons at West County Strings for the first time. Here’s a couple things that makes the summer such a great time at West County Strings:

  • We remake our schedule from the ground up.  So, if you’re a prospective family that’s been waiting patiently for an availability or a current family hoping for a time that would work better for you, there’s literally no better time than right now to get started and make that happen!
  • Scheduling is flexible.  We know families are in and out of town throughout the summer, so we allow you to sign up for only the weeks you’re in town and available for lessons.  If you want lessons every week, we’ve got you covered.  If you’ll be out of the county much of the summer, we’ll miss you while you’re gone, but we’d love to see you on the weeks you’re here!
  • Students have more time and less stress than during the school year, which means they can devote more time and energy to practicing and often make great progress over the short course of the summer.
  • Students have less other musical demands from orchestra, All-Suburban, All-State, and the like, which means we can focus less on making improvements to their individual technique, ability, and repertoire.

Current students and their families, and prospective families who have competed their observations with me or Kirby, please complete and return your summer registration form at your earliest convenience.  If you are a new family that has not yet had the chance to observe a lesson with me or Kirby, please contact us at (636) 219-0450.  We’d love to tell you more about our program, and schedule a time for us to meet and for you to see what lessons at West County Strings are like!

We look forward to seeing you all this summer!

– Brad

SU18 Registration

Welcome to the Home Stretch!

Once upon a time – long, long ago – I used to run cross country.  There’s something I really  enjoyed about training for cross country races.  As you get to know the course and your body, you start to get a feel for how to pace yourself, when to conserve energy and when to exert it.  And there’s something especially satisfying about the “home stretch” – that last straightaway to the finish line – because you know that you can just leave it all out there because afterwards the race is over.


Well, as far as this school year goes, we are now on the “home stretch!” April and May are arguably the biggest months of the whole year for preparation and performances, but afterward lies summer, so you know you can put in the kind of work that makes you think, “I can’t keep this up forever!” because (good news!) you don’t have to.  The end is in sight.  But now is the time to push yourself.

The first thing coming up is the Spring Festival group performance on Sunday, April 29.  We only have four (that’s right – 4!) Tuesday night rehearsals left to get ready.  That means everyone needs to be well-prepared individually for all the repertoire that they’re responsible for, and prioritizing attending class this upcoming month.  (If your’e wondering what repertoire you’re responsible for, you can find it here.)  I’m looking forward to these next four weeks of classes, to seeing how much we can improve as groups, and to having fun as we do it!