When Reverend Carl Walker and Grant West founded their music academy in 1988, it was with a rented piano in a rented duplex. “There were times when we thought we might have to close the doors,” said Walker, who lives near the academy at 760 Selby Ave. “Now we’re seeing our mission come to fruition in ways we never expected.”

Last month Walker-West received a grant of $625,000 from the McKnight Foundation. It was one of 10 Minnesota arts organizations recognized by McKnight with grants of $500,000 or more as part of a nationwide Ford Foundation program focused on groups serving people of color.

Walker-West
Walker-West co-founders Grant West (left) and the Reverend Carl Walker (right) are joined by executive director Braxton Haulcy and students Jay Marr, 15, and Josiah Walker, 14, in the Selby Avenue music academy’s performance room. Photo by Brad Stauffer

From the beginning, Walker-West has taught music in the African American tradition of people gathering, exploring and growing through music. Initially, Walker-West concentrated on students who otherwise might not be exposed to music. Today, in addition to conducting vocal and instrumental lessons for 230 students of all ages, it offers a senior choir and engages in partnerships with a variety of organizations, including the Saint Paul Public Schools.

myvillager house ad myvillager house ad                

“It’s been a climb from the beginning,” said West, who continues to teach at the academy. “But the grant validates our mission and methodology. It recognizes what we do and how we do it and helps us as we strive to do even more.”

Walker-West executive director Braxton Haulcy said he could not agree more. According to him, the grant money will be spread out over five years and used to help fund a variety of programs.

“This is the largest grant we’ve ever received,” said Haulcy, who stepped into his role at Walker-West in 2019. And it came as a surprise, according to him. One day he received a call from McKnight asking for information on the academy’s financials. Not long after, “we get this email saying you have $625,000.”

According to Haulcy, the grant money will allow the academy to better serve its students with increased support for instructors and scholarships and new instruments. “We want to expand our vision of lifelong learning and use the healing power of music to serve all ages,” he said.

“The grant couldn’t have come at a better time,” Haulcy said. “We just finished up a feasibility study for a capital campaign we’re planning to roll out in the fall. This is a nice gift to get started. It’s unrestricted. We can use it for operations. We can use part of it for our capital campaign. It gives us a lot of flexibility.

“Last year we had our best year ever in terms of keeping tuition income at pretty much the same level as the year before,” Haulcy said. “And a lot of foundations came out and supported us with COVID grants. We hit $1.2 million in revenue. That’s the highest revenue we’ve ever had. When I came here, we were at $450,000 in revenue, and we had a $170,000 loss.”

Weathering the storm of COVID-19

Thanks to those foundations and the efforts of its instructors, Walker-West “weathered the storm of the pandemic fairly decently,” Haulcy said. “When the state shut down, our string instructors met with me over the weekend and we trained them to do virtual classes. On Monday we continued lessons. I always tell people our instructors are heroes. We were able to use technology to keep things going. The ironic thing is, when we went through our strategic planning process we talked about using online technology for teaching. We didn’t think we could do it well enough, so we put it on a shelf. When the state shut down, we took it off the shelf.”

Haulcy also credited the families of Walker-West students. “They stuck with us,” he said. “They were very patient. They appreciated the opportunity to continue with lessons online. And right now I think we’re ahead of our pre-COVID enrollment levels. And online learning isn’t going to go away.”

According to Haulcy, the grant money will allow the academy to better serve its students with increased support for instructors and scholarships and new instruments. “We now cover all generations,” he said, “and we want to expand our vision of lifelong learning and use the healing power of music to serve all ages.

“The other piece of it is, we want to continue working with community partners throughout the Twin Cities.” Those partners include Ramsey County, Obama Elementary School in Summit-University, the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis and the Twin Cities Jazz Festival.

A unique way of teaching music

“With the federal No Child Left Behind Act, music was taken out of schools because it was not reading and writing and arithmetic,” Haulcy said. “But take a step back and ask what is music? It’s reading and writing and arithmetic. When I came to Walker-West, I sat down with the staff and said we need to get out of the silos. We needed to engage with the community and use the healing power of music to make it better.

“We have a unique way of teaching at Walker-West,” Haulcy said. “It’s called play to learn. You pick things up by ear. Just as you teach a child to speak before you teach him or her to read and write, we want our students to speak with their instruments before they learn to read and write music.

“It’s part of catching the tones and patterns and the changes in the music and using improvisational methods for jazz, blues, contemporary and even classical music. We call that the secret sauce. When Walker-West started, it was 100 percent African American. Then people across town found out about the secret sauce, and they started coming to Walker-West.” Now, he added, white students slightly outnumber those of color.

“It’s kind of a magical, spiritual place,” Haulcy said. “It’s family.”

—Anne Murphy

COMMENTS TERMS OF SERVICE

The Villager welcomes comments from readers. Please include your full name and the neighborhood in which you live. Be respectful of others and stay on topic. We reserve the right to remove any comment we deem to be profane, rude, insulting or hateful. Comments will be reviewed before being published.

Subhead

Accumsan processus ex est autem ullamcorper. Sit putamus esse placerat ipsum iusto. Seacula ut in molestie nobis nunc. Eu nobis exerci gothica commodo et. Eleifend qui vero te soluta liber. Typi eorum decima doming claritas lectores. Minim erat molestie suscipit adipiscing parum. Mirum te blandit usus illum notare. Minim dolore at parum parum ipsum. Nulla odio est in est feugiat. Commodo me processus nobis iis sequitur. Lectorum humanitatis zzril eu in ut. Accumsan processus ex est autem ullamcorper. Sit putamus esse placerat ipsum iusto. Seacula ut in molestie nobis nunc. Eu nobis exerci gothica commodo et. Eleifend qui vero te soluta liber. Typi eorum decima doming claritas lectores. Minim erat molestie suscipit adipiscing parum. Mirum te blandit usus illum notare. Minim dolore at parum parum ipsum. Nulla odio est in est feugiat. Commodo me processus nobis iis sequitur. Lectorum humanitatis zzril eu in ut. 

Copy and paste your cutline here. Photo by Brad Stauffer

YOUR HEADLINE HERE!

Magna adipiscing qui volutpat littera magna. Legentis quam laoreet doming molestie eorum. Ea formas mazim consuetudium id wisi. Nisl ut vulputate sed quis humanitatis. Iusto parum nam accumsan anteposuerit insitam. Feugiat est facit sequitur facilisi praesent. Liber nam sollemnes congue adipiscing legunt. Claram ullamcorper in videntur dolor dolor. Autem autem parum per suscipit parum. Lectores nunc in aliquip quinta vel. Nisl nunc decima quarta ut habent.

Gothica dolore option typi nobis lobortis. Qui ii nam soluta vel littera. Ii facer humanitatis ut lorem elit. Feugiat est facit sequitur facilisi praesent. Eorum facer sit quam qui claritatem. Parum parum vel quam ut lobortis. Eorum tempor modo vel volutpat exerci. Diam placerat lorem assum nobis legunt. Feugiat est facit sequitur facilisi praesent.

Copy and paste your PULL QUOTE here. Eu notare per putamus lobortis processus. Doming exerci accumsan ullamcorper ullamcorper qui. Dolor lorem qui cum ut facer. Claritatem assum vel zzril minim vel. Eorum tempor eorum humanitatis decima elit. It’s a pull quote.

Autem sit velit dynamicus magna ut. Minim dolore at parum parum ipsum. Nulla odio est in est feugiat. Commodo me processus nobis iis sequitur. Lectorum humanitatis zzril eu in ut. Exerci nobis consectetuer et elit iis. Dignissim lectorum praesent claritatem augue non. In consequat in usus adipiscing et. Eodem imperdiet legere tempor placerat est. Claritatem doming luptatum et est ut.

Nunc littera liber tincidunt est in. Amet consuetudium eleifend feugait accumsan magna. In in imperdiet ullamcorper sequitur qui. Duis me magna liber aliquam parum. Fiant blandit et feugiat claritas amet. Eum in nam doming iis facer. Assum me me in mazim eu. Iriure exerci ex iriure est ipsum. Facilisis quam erat nobis quam claritas. Enim nobis dynamicus dolor luptatum tempor.

Eu notare per putamus lobortis processus. Doming exerci accumsan ullamcorper ullamcorper qui. Dolor lorem qui cum ut facer. Claritatem assum vel zzril minim vel. Eorum tempor eorum humanitatis decima elit.

Copy and paste your cutline here. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Autem sit velit dynamicus magna ut. Minim dolore at parum parum ipsum. Nulla odio est in est feugiat. Commodo me processus nobis iis sequitur. Lectorum humanitatis zzril eu in ut. Exerci nobis consectetuer et elit iis. Dignissim lectorum praesent claritatem augue non. In consequat in usus adipiscing et. Eodem imperdiet legere tempor placerat est. Claritatem doming luptatum et est ut.

Nunc littera liber tincidunt est in. Amet consuetudium eleifend feugait accumsan magna. In in imperdiet ullamcorper sequitur qui. Duis me magna liber aliquam parum. Fiant blandit et feugiat claritas amet. Eum in nam doming iis facer. Assum me me in mazim eu. Iriure exerci ex iriure est ipsum. Facilisis quam erat nobis quam claritas. Enim nobis dynamicus dolor luptatum tempor.

Eu notare per putamus lobortis processus. Doming exerci accumsan ullamcorper ullamcorper qui. Dolor lorem qui cum ut facer. Claritatem assum vel zzril minim vel. Eorum tempor eorum humanitatis decima elit.

Neighborhood

Autem sit velit dynamicus magna ut. Minim dolore at parum parum ipsum. Nulla odio est in est feugiat. Commodo me processus nobis iis sequitur. Lectorum humanitatis zzril eu in ut. Exerci nobis consectetuer et elit iis. Dignissim lectorum praesent claritatem augue non. In consequat in usus adipiscing et. Eodem imperdiet legere tempor placerat est. Claritatem doming luptatum et est ut.

Neighborhood

Nunc littera liber tincidunt est in. Amet consuetudium eleifend feugait accumsan magna. In in imperdiet ullamcorper sequitur qui. Duis me magna liber aliquam parum. Ea formas mazim consuetudium id wisi. Nisl ut vulputate sed quis humanitatis. Claram ullamcorper in videntur dolor dolor. Autem autem parum per suscipit parum. Lectores nunc in aliquip quinta vel. Nisl nunc decima quarta ut habent.

Copy and paste your cutline here. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Magna adipiscing qui volutpat littera magna. Legentis quam laoreet doming molestie eorum. Ea formas mazim consuetudium id wisi. Nisl ut vulputate sed quis humanitatis. Iusto parum nam accumsan anteposuerit insitam. Liber nam sollemnes congue adipiscing legunt. Claram ullamcorper in videntur dolor dolor. Autem autem parum per suscipit parum. Lectores nunc in aliquip quinta vel. Nisl nunc decima quarta ut habent.

Gothica dolore option typi nobis lobortis. Qui ii nam soluta vel littera. Ii facer humanitatis ut lorem elit. Eorum facer sit quam qui claritatem. Parum parum vel quam ut lobortis. Eorum tempor modo vel volutpat exerci. Diam placerat lorem assum nobis legunt. Feugiat est facit sequitur facilisi praesent. Parum lobortis ullamcorper nunc etiam hendrerit. THIS IS A TEXT LINK.

—Writer

Copy and paste your cutline here. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Headline

Subhead

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Copy and paste your cutline here. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Headline

Subhead

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Copy and paste your cutline here. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Headline

Subhead

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Copy and paste your cutline here. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Headline

Subhead

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

COMMENTS TERMS OF SERVICE

The Villager welcomes comments from readers. Please include your full name and the neighborhood in which you live. Be respectful of others and stay on topic. We reserve the right to remove any comment we deem to be profane, rude, insulting or hateful. Comments will be reviewed before being published.

Leave a Reply