Category Archives: Studio Updates

Summer ’20 Week 1: So Much Fun!

Hello Everyone!

I hope you’re enjoying the beautiful weather.  As St. Louisans, we know that we get approximately 6 really nice days of weather a year, so take it all in!

I just wanted to take a moment to express how incredibly fun lessons this first week of Summer ’20 were for Kirby and me.  I think there’s something about the feel of a fresh start – a new beginning – that invigorates and energizes.  And seeing you on different days, at different times, and in a different order is just enough variety to spice things up. Plus, even though students have been at home for the past several months, there’s a big, very noticeable difference in students’ energy levels with the pressures of schoolwork relieved.  It all made for a very fun first week.

It was really, really exciting to begin new projects all of you who we saw this week – and those of you who we didn’t see this first week, we’ll get started on your own new projects in your first lesson this summer.  I was struck by what a solid place we’re all starting from this summer.  Across the board, I heard really good intonation and tone, and saw a lot of really good technique.  If that’s our starting point, the sky’s the limit on where we can end up by the end of the summer!  One big component of this summer’s work is strengthening review, so if you haven’t gotten a chance to print our your violin or viola review charts for the summer, please do so now!

In addition to lessons, we’d like to put a few other studio activities on the calendar for June, including:

  • A studio “hangout” on Saturday, June 13th at 10 a.m.  We’d like to use this opportunity just to give all of our students the opportunity to share what they’re up to this summer, have them be able to see their group class friends and classmates, and generally bond as as studios and as program overall.  Even if you didn’t regularly participate in group classes in the ’19-’20 school year, please put this on your calendar – we’d love to have you there!  A separate Zoom invitation for this event will be sent in the week leading up to it.
  • A “home concert” on Saturday, June 27th at 2:00 p.m.  We want to give all of our students concrete goals to focus on and prepare for this summer, opportunities to continue to develop as performers, and the ability to share their music with their friends, classmates, and studio family and friends.  Being about a month away, we’ll all have an opportunity to select a new piece of repertoire and work on polishing it.  Again, a separate Zoom invitation for this event will be sent prior to the concert date.

We look forward to seeing you all again in lessons this upcoming week!

Welcome to the Summer ’20 Semester!

Hello West County Strings Students and Families!

Welcome to the Summer ’20 Semester at West County Strings.  Kirby and I are thrilled that you are here and we look forward to each and every moment of learning and fun that we are going to be able to have with you all this summer!

Private lessons kick off on Monday, May 25.  Be sure to check your inbox for the Zoom meeting link and password for summer lessons.  Kirby and I are excited to dive into some new summer-long projects including scale studies, new technique exercises, new pieces of repertoire, and sight reading, aural skills, and music theory studies.  It’ll be fun to look back at the end of the summer and see just how far we’ve come in these 12 weeks!

We also plan to hold additional informal performances throughout the summer on Zoom, as well as “listening parties” where we can study and explore some music literature together.  Keep your eyes out for finalized dates for these events.  Our community is an incredibly special place because of you – the incredibly special families that make it up – and we benefit from being in each other’s company now more than ever.

So, get ready to dive in to all that there is to explore in the wonderful world of music.  It’s going to be a great summer!

Spring ’20 Solo Recitals Recap

Hello Everyone!

Kirby and I want to extend a tremendous thank you to all of the students and their families who participated in our Spring Solo Recitals this year.  It was truly a new and unique experience for all of us, but it was wonderful and beautiful in so many ways – from the exceptional performances themselves to simply being able to be “in the same place” as you all at the same time, which we have missed so much.   We love the community of families that makes up West County Strings, and the ability to share in the journey of music learning with you all!

So, while we certainly do look forward to being able to return to live, in-person recitals just as soon as possible, we plan to hold some extra Zoom performances over the summer to give you all a chance to connect, goals to prepare for, and opportunities to share your talents and music with one another.  We look forward to seeing you at the next one!


Summer ’20 Kicks Off Monday, May 25!

Thank you all to everyone who participated in our Spring ’20 Solo Recitals via Zoom this past Sunday.  What a wonderful, joy-filled experience that was, and we’re looking forward to offering more community building performance opportunities this summer!

Lessons for the Spring ’20 Semester extend through this Saturday, May 23.  So, we look forward to seeing you all for the last time of the ’19-’20 school year at your regular times before we move on to the summer.  What an incredible school year this has been, in spite of the difficulties.  In fact, I think the difficulties have challenged us to learn and grow in new and unexpected ways, and we’re so proud of each of our students for their perseverance and dedication.

The Summer ’20 Semester will kick off on Monday, May 25, and we look forward taking on new projects, applying new approaches, and taking the next steps with all of our students.  You all energize, invigorate, and inspire us to reach new heights as teachers, and we can’t wait to continue this journey together!

– Mr. Brad & Ms. Kirby

Group Classes Extended!

I don’t know about you, but I have enjoyed seeing everyone on Tuesday evenings.  I would love to plan to continue through the end of April if there is still interest.  This leaves us with two more group classes for the semester:  April 21 and April 28.

These classes take a lot of planning and forethought to get the technology up and running, so I thank you for your patience with me in our new format!  It was been super fun to learn new things, and I look forward to new challenges each week.

We are brainstorming ways to have a “solo recital” without all being together.  Let’s look forward to that together!

– Kirby

Summer ’20 Registration Now Open!

Hello Everyone! 

The 2019-2020 school year got off to an incredible start, and has been filled with some truly inspiring and memorable lessons, group classes, recital performances, and accomplishments by our students.  The past month has unquestionably been filled with unforeseeable and unprecedented challenges, but the learning, growing, connecting, and sharing have continued nonetheless, and I can honestly say that Ms. Kirby and I have never been more thankful for our relationship with each and every one of our students and their families and more proud of the creativity and adaptability of our community, which has allowed deep learning to continue on unhindered! 

So, it is with great excitement that we can now share with you that registration for our Summer ’20 Semester is now open!  As always registration for the summer is flexible, and you can choose to sign up for only the weeks you know you will be in available.  With that said, consistency and continuity over the summer are vitally important to maintaining progress from school year to school year, and we always look forward to seeing each of our students for as many lessons as possible over the summer.  


This year, there is one unique factor to consider: As we have seen more and more music camps, academic programs, and activities of every kind cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ms. Kirby and I are saddened for the loss of enrichment opportunities for our students and our community at large.  More than ever before, we see children in front of us who are eager to learn and have a void of time, energy, and interest to fill. Throughout the world, there are people turning to music as a comfort and strength during this time when character, beauty, and expression are especially needed. With this in mind, Ms. Kirby and I encourage you to make lessons a priority this summer, and we are committed to continuing to create as engaging and creative a learning environment and as much community for our students and their families as possible.  To help make this all possible for all of our students, and in light of the economic impacts of the coronavirus, we have decided to keep tuition rates the same this summer, instead of giving them their scheduled annual increase. We hope this helps provide some relief! 

Registration will be open from April 1 – April 30, at which point Ms. Kirby and I will sit down and create our summer teaching schedule, which we plan to have back to you by May 15.  The Summer ’20 Semester will kick off on May 26 and run through August 21.  We will be in touch with each of you individually as soon as possible to discuss what lesson length best suits your child’s age and level of advancement, as many of you have graduated to new heights this school year!  We’re incredibly optimistic about what the future holds for each of our students, and look forward to taking the next step in that journey of learning, discovering, and growing together this summer. 

SU20 Registration

MFMC Camp Scholarship Competition Winners!

Today, Ms. Kirby and I are very proud to share with you that Kaya McNurlen, Alan Song, Aaron Wolz, and Nathan Zhou have all been announced as winners in the Missouri Federation of Music Clubs “Virtuoso Club” Camp Scholarship Competition.  The competition had its largest field of participants to date, and is awarding a total of $5,000 to the 10 overall winners.  We are thrilled to have 4 of those 10 students be from West County Strings, and for them to be able to use those funds to further their music education this summer!


Kaya McNurlen (8th grade) performed Concerto No. 1 in A Minor by J.B. Accolay.


Alan Song (9th Grade) performed the 1st Movement of Concerto No. 2 in G Major by J. Haydn.


Aaron Wolz (9th grade) performed Spinning Wheel by N. Rubenstein and the Courante from Suite No. 1 in G Major by J.S. Bach.


Nathan Zhou (9th grade) performed Concerto No. 1 in A Minor by J.B. Accolay.

Kaya, Alan, Aaron, and Nathan each worked exceptionally diligently for months to prepare for this single opportunity, and we are so thrilled that their hard work earned them each a victory.  But even more importantly, the competition served as a goal, and that goal fueled focused learning and growth that I don’t think we could’ve accomplished without something concrete to look forward to on the horizon.  This competition is open to anyone grades 7-12, and we would love to have even more of you participate in it next year!

But for now, make sure you congratulate Kaya, Alan, Aaron, and Nathan next time you see them.  They’ve earned it!

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!

New Year ’20 Update

Happy New Year, West County Strings families!  Kirby and I are looking forward to seeing you all again, and to everything that we will be able to learn and accomplish together as this new decade unfolds!  Here’s a few highlights from the end of 2019 and things to add to your 2020 calendar:

Holiday Play-Along Party

Thank you once again to the Garcias for hosting our Holiday Play-Along Party again this year.  After solo recitals, and orchestra concerts, and auditions, and everything else that goes into wrapping up the semester, it was perfect for the very last thing that we did as a studio in 2019 to just be for fun.  And fun it was!  It was so gratifying to see students sight-reading together – and with facility and very nice technique, might I add! – and students and parents alike playing, chatting, and just generally having a good time.  Many thanks also to Jenina Kenessey and Dan Mieloch for bringing their cello and viola along and adding to our ensemble, and we look forward to this event again at the end of 2020!


Lessons & Group Classes Resume

Private lessons resume on Monday, January 6 and group classes on Tuesday, January 7.  If you’ve used your long car trips or plane flights as an opportunity to listen to your Suzuki CD for hours on end, and your days off of school to practice daily and for longer than usual, good for you!  If, more likely, travel and the lack of routine have been rough on your listening and practicing, then take this encouragement as your incentive to dust off your CD and your violin or viola and get the juices flowing again!

As for group classes, we look forward to seeing everyone who joined us in the fall, and more!  I can’t stress enough how valuable the review, repetition, ensemble environment, and varieties of teaching and learning methods that happen in group class are, and how much progress they lead to.  So, if you weren’t able to join us in the fall, jump in and join us now!  We’d love to have you there, and I know it will be well worth your time.


MFMC “Virtuoso Club” Events

Throughout the year, the Missouri Federation of Music Clubs, and specifically a St. Louis Chapter the “Virtuoso Club,” offers a wide variety of events that enrich students learning experience.  Many of them are coming up this spring, including:

  • District IV Competition:  Held on Wednesday, March 25 at Steinway Piano Gallery, the District Competition provides an opportunity for students Grade 10 and above to perform one required piece and one piece of their choice for the chance to win district honors and the opportunity to continue on to compete at the state level.  This is a great resume-builder, held in a warm and supportive environment, which makes it a great way to build experience for further auditions and competitions.
  • Music Camp Scholarship Competition: Held on Saturday, March 28 at DaySpring Arts, the Music Camp Scholarship Competition gives students Grades 7-9 and 10-12 to perform one required piece and one piece of their choice for the chance to win one of multiple $500 scholarships that can be applied to any summer music camp of their choice.  What a great way to help cover the costs of those wonderful strings camps and Suzuki Institutes that so many of you already participate in every year!
  • Festival: Held on Saturday and Sunday, April 25-26 at St. Charles Community College the Festival is the Virtuoso Club’s main event of the year – a weekend full of music in which students of any age can perform one required piece and one piece of their choice for a judge in order to receive feedback and earn points towards ribbons and trophies that can be accumulated over the years.  I know the idea of a “judge” can be scary, but by and large they are other teachers that Kirby and I know personally, and who are very warm and supportive in their feedback.  The intent is to be positive and educational.


There will be more to come, but that should get us off to a good start.  As a parting note, I meant to share the Concerto Grosso Op. 6, No. 8 “Fatto per la notte de Natale” (Made for the night of Christmas), with you all earlier in December.  But, as we’re still in the holiday season, I suppose it’s still appropriate.  Here’s a nice rendition, not with a full ensemble of Baroque instruments, but in what we could call a faithful attempt at Baroque style.  Enjoy!