Tag Archives: St. Louis

’22-’23 Registration Now Open!

Hello WCS Students & Families!

Ms. Kirby and I have been thoroughly enjoying seeing so many of you for lessons throughout the summer to this point.  It’s been wonderful to continue the journeys of so many of our long-time students into new techniques and new repertoire, as well as to begin those journeys with so many students and families who are new to West County Strings this summer! 

As we enter July, not only do we look forward to continuing to see so many of you throughout the rest of summer, but it’s also time for us to start preparing for our ’22-’23 school year, which will run from Monday, August 22, 2022 – Saturday, May 27, 2023.  

Registration for the ’22-’23 school year at West County Strings will be open from July 1 – July 31, 2022.   Here’s a copy of our ’22-’23 registration form, which you can return electronically, bring with you to lessons, or send in the mail. 

As always, let us know if you have any questions at all about the registration process or anything else, and we look forward to seeing you the rest of this summer, this upcoming school year, and beyond!

Spring Festival ’22 Recap

Hello Everyone!

Many thanks to all the students who participated in this year’s Spring Festival group performance this past Sunday, May 15. You all played so beautifully, and displayed such growth and maturity in both ability and confidence. which was a testament to the value of group class alongside private lessons in developing well-rounded musicianship. A heartfelt hank you to all the families who made the trips to group class on Tuesday evenings throughout the school year, making this learning experience for students – and this wonderful concert – possible! To those who weren’t able to join us for group classes this school year, we certainly hope you’ll join us in ’22-’23!

Congratulations MFMC Competition Winners!

Hello WCS Students & Families!

Ms. Kirby and I want to take a moment to congratulate the West County Strings students who earned scholarships through this year’s Missouri Federation of Music Clubs Scholarship Competition, which took place recently on March 26. This year’s winners were:

Tarini Karnati, viola

Tarini earned her place as one of this year’s MFMC Scholarship Competition winners playing the 1st mov. of the J.C. Bach-Casadeus Concerto in C Minor. A sophomore at Parkway Central, Tarini also enjoys playing tennis and studying Carnatic vocal music.

Aaron Wolz, viola

No stranger to success in the MFMC Scholarship Competition, Aaron previously earned a scholarship in 2020. He competed this year playing the 1st mov. of the Concerto in D Major by C. Stamitz. A junior in high school, Aaron attends Flo Valley Community College through Pattonville’s Early College Program, where he participates in the college’s orchestra. He is also a member of the St. Charles County Youth Orchestras Symphony Orchestra, which he credits with much of his growth as an orchestral musician, and a member of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, where he also serves as the orchestra’s first student librarian.

Nathan Zhou, violin

Nathan is also a two-time scholarship winner, having previously competed playing the Accolay Concerto No. 1 in A Minor in 2020. He was also runner-up in the MFMC District Competition in 2021, playing the 1st mov. of the Mozart Concerto No. 3 in G Major. This year, he performed the 1st mov. of the Bruch Concerto in G Minor in order to secure his second scholarship win. Outside of violin, Nathan also enjoys studying the piano and French horn, as well as playing goalie for his school’s water polo team.

We’re so proud of the effort that these three students put into preparing for this event, and even more so want to recognize the consistent dedication that they have displayed over the years, which has allowed them to reach this level of mastery in their playing. And we’re thrilled that their efforts have earned them these scholarships to put towards their ongoing music education.

The Missouri Federation of Music Clubs has competitions available for students grades 7 and up, so who knows: next year, or a few years down the road this could be you! Students grade 7-12 are eligible to participate annually, with winners being required to take one year off between appearances.

Summer ’22 Registration Now Open!

Hello Everyone!

Even as we work towards the events that highlight the spring, it’s also time for us to start looking ahead to the summer!

Registration for the Summer ’22 Semester at West County Strings will run April 1-30, and as always we are so excited to continue working with all of our current students, and to welcome new students and their families into our community.

Summer is such an incredible time of opportunity for students to learn and grow. When students get even just one restful week of break from school during the school year, the positive effects are immediately and unmistakably noticeable in their playing. Apply that to the 12 weeks of the summer, and students can make incredible development in their musical ability, and have a lot of fun doing it!

As always, registration over the summer at West County Strings is more flexible than during the school year. Families are free to sign up for only the weeks they know they’ll be in town and will want lessons, and we can accommodate requests for different days and times on different weeks, if needed.

You can download your Summer ’22 Registration Form here, and return it by email to Mr. Brad (bradleytkay@gmail.com), or bring it to your lessons in April. We look forward to seeing you all this summer!

Holiday ’21 Update

Hello WCS Students & Families!

It’s hard to believe that we’re entering the holiday season and 2021 is nearing an end. It many ways, it feels like the year has absolutely flown by, but when we look back at the year as a whole, so much has happened.

What A Year!

We started 2021 with roughly 50% of our students’ and their families feeling comfortable coming to lessons in the studio in person, and seeing the other 50% online. The church that we had used for years for group classes was still closed to the public, and many facilities still had very uncertain availability, but the Campbells were kind enough to open their home to us for our Tuesday-evening group classes, which turned out to be so special as it was our first time all getting back together – and we got to hold some absolutely wonderful classes and rehearse some exceptionally rewarding music like the Vivaldi Concerto for 2 Violins in D Minor and the Bach Fugue in G Minor. At the end of the Spring ’21 Semester, we were able to hold our solo recitals in person, which again was especially meaningful because of the ability for us to share our music with each other in the same place as each other once again.

By summer, we were fortunate to be seeing almost all of our students in person once again, and Kirby and I even had the pleasure of seeing some of you at the Colorado Suzuki Institute, where we had the opportunity to teach in June. Kirby and I were both also able to take further Suzuki teacher training through the Ithaca Suzuki Institute in Ithaca, NY. We love to take every opportunity we can to continue our training, as it fills us up with new ideas to in turn pour into you all in lessons and group classes!

This fall, we’ve had such a wonderful blend of continuing to work with students and their families who we’ve known for a long time, and who are growing and maturing – both in music and in life – in ways that are so exciting to see and beginning new relationships with so many new students and their families. It’s always so fun to begin these new musical journeys, start sharing ideas, and see good tone, technique, and musicality begin to grow.

Coming Up Next!

Now, we enter a time to rest, recover, enjoy family, friends, and food, whether at home or on the road, and of course hopefully practice some scales, review pieces, preview spots, and listen to our Suzuki CDs or other recordings! We’ll be on break from lessons from Thursday, December 23, 2021 – Wednesday, January 5, 2022. Lessons will resume on Thursday, January 6. For Kirby and me, this is also a time to prepare and lay out plans for what we’ll be working on with each of you when we return. We always look forward to the Missouri Federation of Music Clubs’ events in the spring, resuming group classes with you all, and preparing for our Spring Festival group performance and Spring Solo Recitals. We’ll have more details about all that and more at the end of break!

With that, we hope that you all enjoy a very happy holiday season. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed this year with each of you, and look forward to all the opportunities we’ll have to learn with you in 2022!

Paganini Caprice No. 5

We’ve listened to Paganini’s Caprice No. 5 in A Minor here before. It’s a piece that’s often on my mind, as it’s one of the more “accessible” (obviously that’s a relative term, as it is still rather difficult!) of Paganini’s 24 Caprices to students. It’s built on a series of arpeggios and sequences that are not unlike the Wohlfahrt or Kreutzer Etudes that students will have studied by this point in their playing – it’s just more challenging!

Today, I wanted to take a look at two very different versions of the same piece. Both are extremely virtuosic, excellent, and exemplary. But from tempo, to bow stroke, to character and style, the two could hardly be more dissimilar. One is Sumina Studer’s amazing recording, in which she displays incredible technique in using the extraordinarily difficult ricochet bowing that most performers opt not to use for this Caprice. The other is Leonidas Kavakos’, which he approaches with raw power and prowess. Which do you prefer?

Committing to Fill our “Ability Buckets”

A few years ago, the one of the faucets in our house developed what I would have described as a “little drip.” Nothing particularly serious. A little drip every few seconds. Certainly not worth putting right at the top of my to-do list. I’d get around to fixing it when I had the time, I thought.

And then the water bill for that month came in. I don’t recall exactly what it was, but I do remember that it was over ten times our normal monthly bill! I won’t soon forget that part.

So, I went straight to Home Depot, picked up the part needed to fix the leaking seal for, and with about 15 minutes of work, I had the problem solved. Next month, the water bill was back to its normal range.

My point? Even a little drip can add up to a whole lot of water when it drips steadily over time. In this case, the result was not so positive. But let’s turn it around and apply it to something productive.

I hesitate to refer to anything from the ’20-’21 school year as a “silver lining,” because it was such a difficult year for so many people. One of the realities for us at West County Strings, though, was that violin or viola lessons was in many cases the only activity that students were able to stay involved in, as sports and other extracurriculars had to take a break until they could be done safely again.

The result? Students had a lot fewer things vying for their time and attention, and a lot more time to practice! I dare say that a lot of the exceptional results we saw from students during the ’20-’21 school year were due to this reality.

And now, as things increasingly return to “normal,” we are also seeing students and families returning to balancing more and more activities and events, and practicing sometimes getting lost in the mix.

So why did I begin by mentioning our leaky shower and the water bill that ensued?

Because just as even little drip can add up to a whole lot of water, so too can a little bit of careful, consistent, thoughtful, focused practice add up to a whole lot of ability.

I’ve been thinking about it like this:

We’re all trying to fill up what we’ll call our “buckets of ability.” We try to fill them up before coming to each lesson. We try to fill them up on a larger scale over the course of a semester before recitals. And we try to fill them up on an even larger scale over the course of a whole school year, and over the course of many years of practice.

The problem is that all too often – and especially this year as we all get back to more and more different types of activities and events – we try to turn that metaphorical “faucet” on all the way and fill up our bucket in one or two big efforts over the course of the week.

And I suppose that would be okay, if our bodies and brains worked that way. But for better or worse, they don’t. Our bodies and brains work best, learn best, and develop best with high-frequency, moderate-intensity efforts.

Dr. Suzuki didn’t have all the science that we have today to back this fact up when he started teaching, but he knew it from observing life. And he wrote about it a lot. In the preface to Suzuki Violin Book 1 (Revised Edition, pg. 5), he says:

“It is the daily practice at home that leads to ability development. The key is how much and how well the student practices the teachers’ instructions.” (emphasis mine)

So, as we find ourselves roughly a quarter of the way into the Fall ’21 Semester, I’d like to encourage each of our students, and each of their families, to commit to this idea of a steady, daily filling of our “buckets of ability” through practice.

Ideally, this would mean focusing on the materials assigned in each students’ private lesson. It may be necessary to practice music for school or community orchestras, as well, but these should not be considered replacements for developing individual skill on lesson assignments.

Given that we are only human, not all days will be of the same length or quality, and some days it may feel utterly impossible to practice (Dr. Suzuki would remind you, “Only practice on the days you eat!”). On the most difficult days, it may be a good idea to simply practice a scale or review piece and relax with the Suzuki CD or recording of another work you are learning.

There is more we can all talk about individually in lessons as the school year goes on, but I’d like to think of West County Strings as a place where each and every student is slowly, steadily filling their “bucket of ability,” and will eventually find it overflowing!

Congratulations ’21-’22 SLSYO Audition Winners!

Kirby and I want to take a moment to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Aaron Wolz and Kaya McNurlen, two members of our West County Strings community who earned places in the ’21-’22 St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra through their audition efforts earlier this summer. It’s always wonderful to see students’ years of musical growth and development mature into opportunities like this, and we trust that they’ll thoroughly enjoy their experience as members of the SLSYO this upcoming season. Once again, congratulations, Kaya and Aaron!

’20-’21 Registration Now Open!

Hello WCS Students & Families! 

I hope you all have been enjoying a wonderful summer, and had a fabulous July 4 weekend in particular.  From a teacher’s perspective, Kirby and I have been loving this summer – with more free time and less school stressors, students have been absorbing information like sponges, and making huge strides in their technique, repertoire, and overall musicianship.  

As much as we’ve been enjoying summer, it’s already time to start preparing for the ’21-’22 school year, in which Kirby and I look forward to furthering and deepening each student’s individual ability and accomplishments, as well as building upon the exceptional work that students did in group classes to help them become better ensemble musicians.  

Our ’21-’22 school year will run from Monday, August 23, 2021 – Saturday, May 28, 2022.  Registration for the ’21-’22 school year is due by Sunday, August 8, so that Kirby and I can have time to create a schedule that works for everyone and get that information out to everyone a week before the school year begins.  Please download a copy of our ’21-’22 Registration Form, which can be returned hard copy or by email.  Similarly, registration fees can be paid by cash, check, Zelle, or Venmo.  

After a ’20-’21 school year that required extraordinary adaptability from all of us, Kirby and I are very much looking forward to a ’21-’22 school year full of much more “normalcy,” and the ability fo focus on the community, collaboration, relationship, and enjoyment that comes along with all the dedication and hard work we, our students, and their families engage in in order to achieve exceptional musical ability.  We can’t wait to start this upcoming school year with all of you!

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!