Spring Festival ’21 Recap

Hello WCS Students & Families!

Thank you so much to all the students who participated in weekly group classes this Spring Semester, and to all the parents, siblings, family members, and friends who made it possible for students to get to and from class every Tuesday evening. After a 2020 in which no one was able to do much of anything at all together, it was wonderful to get back to having group classes in person, and the positive effects were quickly and dramatically seen.

While the weather wasn’t kind to us when it came to group performances during the ’20-’21 school year, and we certainly look forward to hopefully getting back to our regular indoor performance spaces during the ’21-’22 school year, I don’t think I can ever recall the developmental value and musical benefit of group classes ever be more evident than during this Spring Semester.

When we first met again for group classes in person, it was immediately clear that students simply hadn’t been able to play together for a long time. It was more of a challenge that I can ever remember before for even relatively advanced students to play a relatively simple piece of review repertoire at a matching tempo, much less with matching bowings, dynamics, articulations, tone, and expression. By the end of the semester, however, each class at every level was playing very together with the group’s tempo, with exceptionally matching bowings, a wide range of dynamics carried out by the whole class, very matching articulations, and a much more blended tone and expressive color to each piece. In short, they all became very polished young musicians, appropriate to their different ages and levels. I was very proud of their hard work and the progress that resulted!

One other very exciting thing that I saw happen over the course of the semester was more shy, or timid students become more confident and bold, and many students become very poised leaders. Often, a student would lead the group while I played harmony and observed, and was very pleased to see that the leading student lead well, and the class respected their leadership and followed it well, too.

We are in the unique position of having had no graduating seniors this year – I can’t remember the last time that’s happened, if ever! – which means that we also have a unique and exciting opportunity for our groups to return largely intact next fall, with those ready to graduate up to the next class making those transitions. This means that we’ll really be able to build on the work we did this semester, with students already knowing each other and being familiar playing with each other. And given how exceptional the results were this Spring, I can’t wait to see what we’re able to do in the Fall!

Spring Festival ’21

Hello WCS Students & Families!

With our Spring ’21 Solo Recitals behind us, the next big thing we have to look forward to is our Spring Festival ’21. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Who: students who have been regularly participating in Tuesday-evening group classes throughout the semester.
  • What: a group performance in Suzuki “play-in” style, beginning with the most advanced repertoire and working down until we finish with everyone playing Twinkle.
  • Where: the Amphitheater at Schroeder Park, 359 Old Meramec Station Rd. Manchester, MO 63021
  • When: dress rehearsals from 5:15-6:15 p.m., with the concert at 6:30 p.m.
  • How: as the Amphitheater has lawn seating, this event will be weather-permitting, and will be B.Y.O.C. (bring your own chair!)

For dress rehearsals, students Book 4+ should please arrive at 5:00 to tune, and students Pre-Twinkle – Book 3 should arrive at 5:30. Attire should be semi-formal, but comfortable for outdoor weather. Please see the list below for the concert repertoire, which we’ll be focusing on polishing in group class this week!

Spring ’21 Solo Recitals Recap

Hello WCS Students & Families!

Thank you so, so much to all of our students who performed on yesterdays recitals, and to the parents, family, and friends who came out to show their support to them and enjoy the performances. Truly, from both Kirby and me – our most heartfelt thanks. It was an incredible feeling to see so many of you again in person for the first time in many, many months, to see conversations going on between accompanist and performers, between teachers and students, and between families, and between friends. We’re thankful to have had such a wonderful hall to perform in, that did the students’ wonderful performances justice with its sound. As always, we wanted to share some photos that captured the joy of the afternoon. And again, to all of our students who performed – bravo! You should all feel extremely proud, and we’re looking forward to everything that comes next!

MFMC ’21 Competition Results!

Every spring, we look forward to the opportunities afforded to our students by the Missouri Federation of Music Clubs Virtuoso Club. Whether to give students the opportunity to prepare and perform for ribbons, trophies, and judges feedback, or for camp scholarships, district and state honors, or even college scholarships and scholarships to major summer institutes, the Missouri Federation of Music Clubs is a great organization that we love participating in. This year, we want to congratulate our students who took home honors in the Camp Scholarship and District Competitions.

District Competition

The Missouri Federation of Music Clubs Virtuoso Club’s District Competition is open only to 10th – 12th grade students, and affords the winner the opportunity to continue on to compete at the State Competition in May. With only one winner from all string entrants, the competition is stiff, and this year we want to congratulate Nathan Zhou for coming in 1st Runner Up in the District Competition, performing Mozart’s Concerto No. 3 in G Major, 1st movement – a huge accomplishment! Nathan As only a 10th grader, participating in this competition for the first time, we’re sure the future is bright for Nathan and have high hopes for him next year, as well. Many congratulations for your hard work and a job well done, Nathan!

Camp Scholarship Competition

The Missouri Federation of Music Clubs Virtuoso Club’s Camp Scholarship Competition is open to two divisions of students – those in 7th – 9th grade, and those in 10th – 12th grade. This year, we want to congratulate Christien Fanta and Andrew Kang, who both won scholarships in the 7th – 9th grade division of this competition. Both Christien and Andrew performed Haydn’s Concerto No. 2 in G Major, 1st movement, earning themselves scholarships to use towards furthering their music education. Congratulations, Christien and Andrew! And with last year’s Camp Scholarship Competition winners eligible to reenter the competition next year and even more of you growing and maturing in your musical ability who could enter for the first time, we look forward to a great presence in the Camp Scholarship Competition in 2022!

It’s always wonderful for students to have a concrete goal to work hard towards. The progress they make, the self-discipline they cultivate, and the overall improvement to their level of playing that they achieve simply by going through the process of preparing over weeks and months to be ready to compete is the real reward. Winning is simply an added bonus. We’re so thankful for the Missouri Federation of Music Clubs Virtuoso Club and all the opportunities it affords to students, and we hope that even more of you will participate in the Festival, Camp Scholarship Competition, District Competition, or College Music Major Scholarship Competition next year!

Reminder: Summer ’21 Registration Due April 30!

Hello Everyone!

The month of April is absolutely flying by, as we prepare for all of our end-of-the-school-year festivities. In fact, it’s hard to believe that the month is already half over! So, Kirby and I just wanted to extend a quick reminder that registration for the Summer ’21 Semester is due by Friday, April 30, so that we can put all of your lesson time requests together into a schedule that works for everyone, send it out to everyone, and work out all the kinks before the Summer ’21 Semester begins.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions as you go through registration. We so look forward to the opportunity to continue working with you all this summer and building on everything we’ve done together this school year, and to welcoming new members into our music community, as well!

Spring ’21: Upcoming Concerts

Hello WCS Students & Families!

We’re headed into perhaps the most fun part of the school year – that time when we get to share our music with one another and see how all of our hard work has paid off in musical growth, development, and maturity. As always, the primary ways we do this are with our Spring Solo Recitals and our Spring Festival Group Performance. Here’s some preliminary details about both!

Spring Solo Recitals

Our Spring Solo Recitals are for all of our students and will be held this year on Sunday, May 16 from 1-5pm at the Parks, Recreation, and Arts building at Schroeder Park in Manchester. St. Louis County regulations change from week to week, but we expect to be allowed to have 35-55 people in the performing hall at a time, which means we’ll be dividing students up into 3-4 recitals throughout the afternoon.

Kirby and I are working now to put together balanced programs that highlight a little bit of everything from the first steps of learning to some of the more advanced. If you need to be placed earlier or later in the afternoon for scheduling reasons, please let us know so we can accommodate to the best of our ability.

Piano rehearsals for students playing concerto repertoire or other Book 4+ repertoire will be held with Vera Parkin on Saturday, May 15 at Lacefield Music in Chesterfield. (We will add Monday, May 10 if everyone cannot fit into the schedule on the 15th). A sign up sheet will be sent by email to those who need rehearsals.

Spring Festival Group Performance

Our Spring Festival Group Performance is for anyone who’s been regularly participating in weekly in Tuesday evening group classes. Our Spring Festival this year will be held on Tuesday, May 25 in the Amphitheater at Schroeder Park in Manchester. The concert will be at 6:30pm, with dress rehearsals from 5:00-6:15.

Here is the repertoire list for this year’s Spring Festival, so that you know what to focus on in your at-home practicing, and what we’ll be focusing on in group classes between now and the performance:

Chicken on a Fencepost Variations on E & A
Vivaldi Concerto No. 11 for 2 Violins, RV 56: 1. Allegro – Adagio e spiccato – Allegro
Bach “Little” Fugue in G Minor, BWV 578
Rameau Gavotte
Veracini Gigue
Seitz Concerto No. 5 In D Major, Op. 2: 1. Allegro moderato
Gavotte in G Minor
Minuet 3 / Bach Minuet (Bk. 3)
Two Grenadiers
Hunters’ Chorus
Chorus from Judas Maccabaeus
Cannon in 4 Voices
Brother John
Go Tell Aunt Rhody
Twinkle Theme & Variations

Violas, you should have duets to all of the Suzuki repertoire except for Seitz Concerto No. 2 in D Major, Gavotte in G Minor (which you’ll be playing melody on), and Hunters’ Chorus (which you’ll also be playing melody on).

That should cover it for now, and more specific information for each of these events will follow as the particular event draws nearer. Until then, happy practicing!

Summer ’21 Registration Now Open!

Hello returning and prospective West County Strings students and families!

Spring is always a busy time of year for everyone, but in such a good way – as we work toward all the joyful and rewarding culminations of the school year that’s now mostly behind us, we simultaneously start to prepare with excitement for all the possibility of the summer that lies ahead. As I write this, I’m so thankful for the sunshine, the clear sky, and the trees and flowers bursting into bloom that bring so much energy and give a literal breath of fresh air after a winter that was more burdened than most!

So, it’s with great excitement that Kirby and I can say that registration for the Summer ’21 Semester at West County Strings is now open as of today, April 1. You can download your Summer ’21 Registration Form here! As always, our group classes will go on hiatus until the ’21-’22 school year – although we do hope to be able to get back to getting groups together to play at farmers markets, community centers, and the like again this summer – but we look forward to hopefully seeing each and every one fo you for weekly private lessons throughout the summer!

Summer is such an amazing time to not just keep rust from accumulating between school years, but a time to truly make some of the best progress of the entire year. With students generally having a lower school workload, less stress, and more time and energy to devote to practicing, so much can be accomplished, and students can enter into the ’21-’22 school year full of confidence in the progress they’ve made, and ready to jump right into another school year at full speed.

Returning students, your teacher will be in touch with you in the next few days to discuss what they feel is the most appropriate lesson length for you to meet your goals and keep on progressing. Prospective students, now is a great time to find your place at West County Strings, begin your journey of learning and enjoyment, and ensure that we will have space for you in our ’21-’22 school year. If you have any questions, call or email us today!

’20-’21: Welcome to the Home Stretch!

It’s hard to believe that three-quarters of a school year full of adjustments, flexibility, problem-solving, and creativity are already behind us. Yet, here we are at the home stretch, with only the last quarter of the school year still in front of us. As we come back from break, here are a few important dates and events to add to your calendars and keep in mind:

  • Monday, March 29 – Private Lessons Resume
  • Tuesday, March 30 – Group Classes Resume
  • Thursday, April 1 – Summer ’21 Registration Opens
  • Thursday, April 8 – Missouri Federation of Music Clubs Festival, Camp Scholarship Competition, and District Competition video recordings due
  • Friday, April 30 – Summer ’21 Registration Due
  • Sunday, May 16 – Spring ’21 Solo Recitals
  • Spring Festival Group Performance (date, time, and location TBD; afternoon of Sunday, May 23 outdoor concert hopeful)
  • Monday, May 31 – Summer ’21 Semester Begins

This is always a fun time of year, when we’re able to see all the skills that have been developed throughout the school year come together and be displayed in a variety of performances. So, Kirby and I look forward to seeing you again for lessons and group classes this week, as we dive into all that this final quarter of the ’20-’21 school year has in store!

Spring Break ’21 Update

As I reflected this week upon the fact that Spring Break was fast approaching, I was struck by something of a two-way feeling: In some ways, the school year up to this point has felt rather long, full of unusual challenges, obstacles, and hurdles to overcome. In other ways, it feels like life has been kind of “on hold,” and like the last 9 months have gone by in a flash.

However, as I looked out while I was teaching today at the sunshine, the green, growing grass, and the budding, blossoming trees, my primary feeling was one of optimism. Not only are the days growing longer and warmer, but it feels like we may for the first time in a year be turning a corner and headed back towards life as we knew it pre-COVID-19.

Even if that were not the case, I would still have much to be encouraged by from the students and families in our studios. In spite of its difficulties, this school year up to this point has been full of remarkable growth. So many of you are playing at unquestionably the highest level you’ve ever played at. And in particular, it’s exciting to see that progress in those of you who participated in Federation events last year and are preparing to do so again. The you a year ago couldn’t have begun to do the things you are doing today, and that kind of steady, consistent progress is always something to be thankful for!

So, we will be on break, which means no group class or lessons, from Sunday, March 21 – Sunday, March 28. We will resume private lessons on Monday, March 29, and we hope to see you all again for group classes on Tuesday, March 30. Many of you have Federation events to be preparing for on April 8, or St. Louis Youth Symphony auditions coming up on April 15. Even if you don’t have something concrete coming up in the immediate future, Spring Break is the perfect time to spend some extra, quality time with your review pieces, listening to your CDs, and getting in that extra practice that school often keeps you from.

As we look ahead into this final quarter of the ’20-’21 school year, we also have Solo Recitals on Sunday, May 16 and our own Spring Festival Group Performance to look forward to and work hard to prepare for. Our Ensemble is working, amongst other things, on the Vivaldi Concerto for 2 Violins in D Minor, which I will leave you all with a recording of to enjoy – or study if you’re in Ensemble!

We hope you have a great Spring Break, and we look forward to seeing you all again after!


Ms. Kirby and I want to extend our heartfelt congratulations to:

  • Tarini K. and Aaron W., who won seats in this year’s St. Louis High School All-Suburban Orchestra.
  • Kaya M. and Alan S. who won seats in this year’s Missouri All-State Orchestra.
  • Aaron W., who also placed in this year’s St. Charles County Youth Symphony Concerto Competition.

If we missed any All-Suburban (middle school or high school), All-State, or SYCCO Concerto Competition winners, please let us know, so that you can be recognized!

We recognize that doing well in any event like these is not something that can be done by last-minute preparation, but rather is the result of consistent dedication, and steady improvement over many years, which certainly deserves to be applauded.

With so many more opportunities for students coming up this spring, we can’t wait to see all that you will accomplish! It truly is rewarding and motivating to see what started as seeds of musical ability being nurtured, developing, and flourishing.