Category Archives: For Students

Zooming Into Distance Learning!

After resetting the studio in a way that is more conducive for video conferencing, testing our Zoom platform, and researching and brainstorming with colleagues about some of the best ways to approach our distance learning, we are READY TO GO!  Are you?!  


Let’s talk concrete ways you can be completely ready for your lesson and group class this week…  

  •  Please familiarize yourself with Zoom.  Here is a great video explaining how to join a meeting.  
    • We will email an invitation to our Zoom meeting to all families who have a lesson on a given day prior to the start of our teaching day.  There will be no passwords for our meetings – hopefully this will make the process easier as we all adjust.  
    • Please use the invitation you receive to join our Zoom meeting a few minutes prior to your lesson time.  We will set up each meeting in a way that allows the incoming student to have no video or sound until we enable it.  This will allow us to know you are there, but it will not interrupt the lesson before yours.  
    • We ask that you please allow a few minutes of grace period between students as always so we have a chance for bathroom or stretch breaks – especially as everyone gets used to the new technology!  We will try to wrap up lessons a few minutes early as well, to be sure to keep things running on time.  
    • In the event that we will need to make a quick practice video for you, we will sign off of your lesson a bit early in order to make and send said video – enabling us to keep the rest of our lessons running on time.  
    • Zoom allows for recording during the session, which is one of the reasons we chose it, but we are also prepared to switch over to Skype, FaceTime, Gmail Chat, or WhatsApp if need be.  
    • We will send a separate Zoom invitation for group classes on Tuesday evening.  Parents who usually stay in group class, please plan to stay for the whole time.  
  • Please set up your computer in an area of your home that is conducive for a lesson.  This will most likely be the same place you have designated for practice. If you do not have this already set, this is a great time to do so!  
    • Make sure you have all materials needed in one place (ie: pencil, music, binder, music stand).  
    • Parents who usually stay in the lesson should plan to continue to do so and take notes. 
  • Please have your instrument tuned and ready to go.  I realize that for many of you this will be an area to grow in, but what better time than the present?  We recommend the Cleartune app, and this tuning demoWe suggest you watch all of it, and the part with tuning to a tuner is towards the end.  This is much easier than matching a pitch on the piano or tuning to 5ths.  

As always, let us know if you have any questions, and we look forward to seeing all of your bright and shining faces on Zoom this week!

– Brad & Kirby

Spring ’20 Update

Hello Everyone!

Believe it or not, spring is just around the corner.  Is anyone else ready for it?  I know I am!  This school year has, thus far, been the best educationally that I can ever remember, with each and every student really blossoming in their musical ability in unique and incredibly encouraging ways.  And now with a new season comes a whole array of upcoming events and opportunities at West County Strings.

Spring Break!

West County Strings will be on Spring Break from Sunday, March 15 – Sunday, March 22.  We hope that you all enjoy some rest and relaxation, whether at home or on the road.  As always, we hope that you keep your violin or viola close, and maybe even find a little more time to practice than during your usual jam-packed weeks at school.  This is all the more true because we have several events coming up right after Spring Break!


Federation Camp Scholarship Competition

The Missouri Federation of Music Clubs “Virtuoso Club” Camp Scholarship Competition will be held on Wednesday, March 25 from 4-9 p.m. at Steinway Piano Gallery on Dorsett Rd. in Maryland Heights.  Piano rehearsals with accompanist Matt Pankratz will be held in our studio on Sunday, March 22 from 4:30-8:30 p.m.  Ms. Kirby and I are enjoying all of the work of preparation with each of our students participating in this event this year.  If your child is not participating this year, but is a rising 7th-12th grader, keep this event in mind as a possibility for next year!



Spring Festival Group Performance

On Sunday, April 5, we will be having our annual Spring Festival Group Performance in the sanctuary at Chesterfield Presbyterian Church.  Dress rehearsals will begin at 1 p.m. with the performance itself at 3 p.m.  The Spring Festival is the culmination of everything that we’ve been working on in our Tuesday night group classes throughout the school year, and we’ll really be focusing on polishing our performances pieces in groups between now and then (see the repertoire list below!).  So, if you’ve been attending group throughout the school year, make sure to be practice, practice, practicing your group repertoire!  And if you weren’t able to join us for groups this school year, come be part of the audience and get a taste of what group classes at West County Strings are all about.


2020 Spring Festival Repertoire List

Federation Festival

The Missouri Federation of Music Clubs “Virtuoso Club” Festival weekend will be held on Saturday and Sunday, April 25 and 26 at St. Charles Community College, with our students performing on Sunday morning.  Piano rehearsals with accompanist Matt Pankratz will be held in our studio on Sunday, April 19 from 4-7 p.m.  The Festival is always an exciting weekend, with hundreds of students and their families congregating at SCCC, and plenty of wonderful recitals and other events to attend.  Ms. Kirby and I are excited for everyone who’s going to participate in the Festival this year, and if you’re not participating this year, keep it in mind for the next!


Following these events, we’ll have our Spring Solo Recitals, and then start getting ready for summer!  And then whether it’s the Sprunger Violin Camp, St. Charles Youth Symphony Orchestra Workshop, Colorado Suzuki Institute, Chicago Suzuki Institute, or the American Suzuki Institute at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, there’s a plethora of opportunities to take advantage of in addition to your private lessons.  If you haven’t already, ask your teacher what’d be the best fit for you!

Spring ’19 Solo Recital Recap

Wow.  I’m actually taking breaks from typing to clap in the air as I think back about our students’ performances this past Sunday, and I have a big smile on my face.  Wow!

To all the students who performed: Bravo! You displayed wonderful technique, mature musicality, and great respect for one another’s performances.  You should be incredibly proud of yourselves!  Each semester’s recital keeps displaying a higher quality of playing year after year, and that shows the work each of you is putting in and the improvements you are all making!

To all the parents who attended: Thank you, thank you, thank you!  West County Strings couldn’t be what it is without your continual commitment of time and energy to your children’s musical education.

And to each and every family: Please know that Kirby and I find ourselves blown away by how fortunate we are to be able to work with such wonderful families.  It was wonderful to be able to spend time visiting with you and seeing your children eating, playing, and socializing with one another – just enjoying some well-deserved fun after putting in so much hard work for their performances!  And thank you so much for all your contributions to the potluck and help setting up and cleaning up.  You’re all wonderful people that we’re thankful for the opportunity to work with!

To anyone who wasn’t able to join us for this recital, and anyone who did play this past Sunday but would like more opportunities to perform, we hope you’ll join us at one of several home concerts hosted by studio families this summer!

If you didn’t manage to get any photos, here’s some we grabbed from the day:

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!

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
Old Brass Wagon Variations
Happy Fiddling
Take a Turn Twinkle

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

Viola Choir
Minuet 1
Chorus from Judas Maccabeaus

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

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

Happy practicing!

Spring Festival ’18 Repertoire List

Wondering what pieces you’re responsible for the Spring Festival this year?  Well, wonder no longer.  Please note that members of the Ensemble and Circle of 5ths should also bring a black 1/2-inch binder and music stand with them to rehearsals and the concert!

Vivaldi Four Seasons: Spring, 1st Movement

Circle of 5ths
Bach Double
Old Joe Clarke
Everything from G Majors

Viola Choir
Way Down Upon the Swanee River
Lully Gavotte (duet)
Musette (duet)
Etude (duet)

G Majors
Boccherini Minuet
Hunter’s Chorus
Gossec Gavotte
Old Joe Clarke
Minuet 2
Perpetual Motion

A Majors
Song of the Wind
Lightly Row
Old Brass Wagon Variations
Chicken on a Fencepost Variations

Vivaldi Four Seasons Auditions

Every spring, we look forward to our Spring Festival group performance, which always highlights our students’ work both as individuals and in their group classes throughout the school year.  This year, one of the supplemental pieces we will be preparing for the Spring Festival on April 21 is “Spring” (Concerto No. 1 in E Major, Op. 8, RV 269, “La primavera”) from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Like all concertos, the four concertos that make up Vivaldi’s Four Seasons were composed for a solo instrument – in this case violin – and orchestra.  The arrangement we are using allows for us to play this piece with a group of 1st violins, a group of 2nd violins, a group of violas, and a cello.  However, certain parts still require a soloist.  Would you be interested in auditioning for a solo?

Well, if you’re a Book 4+ student, we invite you to audition for the two solos in the 2nd violin part.  And if you’re a Book 5+ student, you’re invited to audition for the four solos in the 1st violin part (you may also audition for the two solos from the 2nd violin part).  The audition winners will only be assigned one of the solos for the performance, so six different students will have the opportunity to play solos.  However, in order to be considered your audition submission must contain both solo excerpts if you are auditioning for 2nd violin, and all four solo excerpts if you are auditioning for 1st violin.  Audition winners must also be able to regularly attend Ensemble rehearsals from 8:00-8:50 on Tuesday evenings throughout the semester.

In order to help you prepare, we are providing marked parts, as well as time stamps for a recording for you to listen to.

Violin 1, pg. 1, Violin 1, pg. 2, Violin 1, pg. 3.

Violin 2, pg. 1, Violin 2, pg. 2.

Violin 1 solo #1 / Violin 2 solo #1 (m. 13-27) @ 0:29
Violin 1 solo #2 (m. 47-55) @ 1:42
Violin 1 solo #3 / Violin 2 solo #2 (m. 59-65) @ 2:08
Violin 1 solo #4 (m. 71-75) @ 2:33

Performances will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Intonation
  • Tone
  • Adherence to the marked bowings and fingerings
  • Technique (posture, bow hold, shifting, vibrato as appropriate, etc.)
  • Musicality (dynamics, phrasing, musical sensitivity)

Please submit your video recording of your audition to no later than 9:00 p.m on Saturday, February 24.  This gives you one month to prepare!  Please ask your teacher if you have any questions.  Happy practicing!