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The West Music Blog
The West Music Blog presents articles, press releases and other information of interest to our local and worldwide customers.

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Des Moines June 2017 Teacher Feature: Barbara Wenger
By West Music Company
6/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Barbara Wenger grew up on a dairy farm in Northeast Iowa. Music was a huge part of her upbringing. She played piano for church during high school. She also played the baritone in band and was in the girls’ chorus, mixed chorus, and show choir. After marrying in 1983, Barbara and her husband moved 12 times throughout the U.S. and Canada with her husband’s career in the U.S. Navy.

Barbara Wenger has been teaching piano since 1997, and has been a Licensed Kindermusik Educator, church organist, and children's choir director. She has also held positions as an administrative assistant, insurance biller, and worked in sales. While in Virginia, Barbara operated her own Kindermusik Studio and taught piano. She also substituted as a pianist and organist for local churches, as well as a local children’s choir director. During her stay in Canada, Barbara established her own classes in a retirement home and daycare settings. Moving to Tennessee, Barbara established a piano program for students looking for private lessons. She taught students in grades kindergarten through middle school.

Barbara is comfortable working with various aged students and encourages them to perform in the yearly recitals. Barbara has a passion for introducing music into the lives of children, helping them develop an appreciation for the arts. She also enjoys reading, walking, watching her sons play sports (lacrosse, baseball, and football), volunteering at school, and most recently spending time with her five grandchildren. 

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Tags: Barbara Wenger, des moines, urbandale, lesson, piano, gallery
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Piano Gallery
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Cedar Falls June 2017 Musician of the Month: Ryan Lothrop
By West Music Company
6/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Ryan is a dedicated and enthusiastic learner at the age of just five years old. He started with Virginia Lee seven months ago when his feet still dangled off the bench.

Ryan rarely misses his weekly assignments. He practices daily and enjoys his music. In a short period of time, he learned to be able to read music, which allowed him to learn more music quickly.

Virginia appreciates Ryan’s effort to learn and dedication to practice, and also his parents for encouraging him to do well.

Congratulations, Ryan! Great Job!

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Tags: piano, lessons, virginia lee
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Cedar Falls
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Celtic Camp is Heating Up This Summer
By West Music Company
5/24/2017 12:39:00 PM  

West Music Celtic CampCeltic Camp Performance NewboLast summer’s Celtic Camp was such a success, that we’re doing it again! Celtic Camp is a week-long summer program at West Music Cedar Rapids for intermediate-level music students. It’s a chance to for students to learn a whole new genre of music in a fun, laid-back environment perfect for the summer. The program ends with a public performance to showcase what the students have learned. Last year, we played at NewBo City Market. This year we’re scheduled to play a two-hour concert at the Cedar Rapids Downtown Public Library!

Middle and high school students who play a woodwind or string instrument are invited to take part in this camp. While flutes are most traditionally seen in Celtic music, all woodwind instruments are welcomed, including saxaphones.

To get the most out of this class, string players should be able to play from Suzuki Book 3. Woodwind players should be playing from Standards of Excellence Book 2 or Student Instrumental Course 2 and have good tone. The average student age is 12 to 15.

Laura Phillips and Mike Hall will once again lead this class. Laura is a woodwinds instructor, public school music teacher, music composer and arranger. When she’s not busy with her students or writing music, she performs in the local Irish folk band, Irishjam. Mike is a professional musician with Orchestra Iowa and teaches violin and viola at West Music.

Celtic Camp is a great way for students to grow as musicians. Traditional Irish folk music uses a lot of rhythm groupings in 3's, as well as groupings of 2's, which gives students a challenge!  Also, it’s an opportunity to play as part of an ensemble.  We’ve seen students grow leaps and bounds by learning to play Celtic music as part of a group. And, while we cannot promise anything, last year three Celtic Camp students did go onto All State.

We hope to see your son or daughter at this year’s Celtic Camp. Register soon to reserve your seat!

Celtic Camp at West Music Cedar Rapids

For Intermediate-Level Middle & High School Students
July 3 - July 8, 2017
Meets every day, except July 4th, from 10:00am to 12:00pm
Performance July 8th at Cedar Rapids Downtown Library, 12:00pm to 2:00pm

Register online or by calling 800-373-2000


Hear about Celtic Camp from instructor Laura Phillips and listen to a sample of the music your child will learn how to play by the end of camp!


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Tags: summer camp, celtic, irish, classes, cedar rapids, downtown
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Marion
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West Music’s Nancy Cree Keyboard Recitals to Honor Prominent Composer
By Tina Chapman
5/17/2017 12:53:00 PM  

Robert D. VandallCoralville, IA – May 17, 2017 – West Music will honor prominent composer Robert D. Vandall at their Two Grand Spring Recitals this weekend at the Coralville Center for Performing Arts. The recitals feature students of West Music based Nancy Cree Keyboard Learning Centers. Students from age 4 to adult will be performing including special recognition for our students graduating from high school.

Prolific composer Robert D. Vandall passed away in February at age 72 following a long and courageous battle with cancer. Vandall published more than 500 works under Alfred Publishing. In addition to operating a private studio in Ohio with his wife Karen, Vandall presented and taught workshops in more than 30 states for many years including many locally at West Music.

Two of this weekend’s series of recitals will feature works by Vandall. Recital times for the Vandall-centered recitals are May 20 at 1:00 p.m. and May 21 at 4:30 p.m. both at the Coralville Center for Performing Arts, 1301 5th Street in Coralville, Iowa. The events are free and open to the public.

“His true passion was composing. He will be missed all over the world for his amazing talent,” said Tina Chapman, Supervisor and Head Teacher of Nancy Cree Keyboard Learning Center at West Music. “We will keep his spirit alive by playing and sharing his music. It is our honor to present several of his pieces in this weekend’s recitals.”


     Nancy Cree Keyboard Logo 


About Nancy Cree Keyboard Learning Centers

The Nancy Cree Keyboard Learning Center Program seeks to open as many musical doors as possible to its students. From traditional acoustic piano to the newest electronic technology, the instruction seeks to introduce and excite the student to a variety of musical possibilities. We take a broad range approach to the varied musical traditions such as classical, jazz, folk and popular music. Music is learned, then performed among family and friends in a variety of social settings. Students develop self-confidence, stage presence and have fun performing together in a cooperative environment. To learn more or sign up for Nancy Cree or any West Music classes visit westmusic.com/lessons.

West Music Logo

About West Music

West Music is a third generation locally owned and family operated business. For over 75 years, West Music has been the area’s leading partner in music education, specializing in pianos, guitars, drums and percussion, band and orchestra instruments, and print music as well as offering music instruction, repair, and music therapy services. With seven retail locations in Iowa and Illinois as well as award-winning ecommerce websites dedicated to servicing music education and percussion communities, West Music strives to encourage people of all ages and abilities to play now and play for life. For more information, visit westmusic.com or call 1-800-373-2000.


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Tags: piano recital, lessons, Coralville, Alfred Publishing
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Coralville, Press Releases, piano
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Coralville April 2017 Musician of the Month: Alyssa Wasmund
By West Music Company
5/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Alyssa Wasmund is in the 7th grade. She studies voice with Jessica Saunders and piano with Tina Chapman. Her voice instructor nominated her to be a featured student because “Alyssa is an excellent all around student and musician. As a singer she has a lovely voice that is mature for her age, without being forced. Alyssa is always willing to try new styles of music and we have worked on everything from pop to Italian art song! Alyssa is wonderfully musical and expressive during performances.” She also plays the flute.  Alyssa earned a 1 rating at the recent IMTA piano festival and has started to work on her second Italian song in her voice studies!

She has always wanted to sing in musicals, and also likes modern rock music. She loves that music is not just about creativity, but also about learning new things and challenging yourself. Her advice to other musicians is “Never give up. Even if you mess up in the middle of a song, don’t stop!” Other hobbies include reading, writing, drawing, ice skating and GLOW club. 

Congratulations, Alyssa!

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Tags: voice, vocal, lesson, teach, piano, Jessica Saunders, Tina Chapman,
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Coralville
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Cedar Rapids April 2017 Musician of the Month: Benjamin Hollinger
By West Music Company
5/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Our musician of the month for May 2017 is Benjamin Hollinger. Benjamin is a piano student of James Jenkins here at West Music Cedar Rapids. He is in the 3rd grade at Prairie View Elementary school. He has studied piano with Mr. Jenkins for 1½ years. Benjamin is always prepared for his lessons and always has a great lesson.

Benjamin’s musical goals are to learn to play the drums and play in a school band and church youth group. His advice to other musicians is to NOT quit even if you get frustrated! The thing he likes most about making music is to listen to the music he plays.

Some other interests Benjamin includes are soccer, chess, working on projects, building things, and computer programming. His favorite music is 80’s rock. Something that you might not know about Benjamin is that he was born with a club foot.
Congratulations, Benjamin! Great job!

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Tags: West Music, Cedar Rapids, piano, lessons, James Jenkins
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Marion
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Cedar Falls April 2017 Musician of the Month: Aveinda Rusk
By West Music Company
5/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Aveinda Rusk is a student at Denver Elementary. She has been studying the violin with Andrea Alert for two and a half years. She loves to play the violin because of the sound that it makes. Her advice to other musicians is to not overthink what you are playing.

Aveinda plays both the violin and oboe, and her goal is to learn the viola and cello too. Her favorite musician Lindsey Sterling. Something that might surprise others to hear is that she has five sisters. When she is not making music, Aveinda can be found playing Minecraft, Dragon City, and playing with her sisters and friends.

Way to go, Aveinda!

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Tags: lesson, cedar falls, violin, Andrea Alert
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Cedar Falls
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Des Moines April 2017 Musician of the Month: Kimball Mendenhall
By West Music Company
5/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Kimball Mendenhall has been a piano student of Dr. Asia Grant for 6 months. He is a 2nd grader in the Waukee Community School District. Kimball loves using his hands to make music and learn new pieces. He is smart, fast, and loves to play sports. Kimball’s favorite sports are soccer, basketball, and football.

Kimball participates in Boy Scouts, as well as playing soccer and basketball. Dr. Grant believes Kimball deserves recognition because “Kimball is very hard working, responsible, always comes to lessons prepared, is a fast learner, and he loves music.”

Congratulations, Kimball!

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Tags: des moines, urbandale, piano gallery, lesson, Asia Grant
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Piano Gallery
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Coralville April 2017 Musician of the Month: Lauren Spence
By West Music Company
5/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Lauren Spence is a 4th grader studying violin in the West Music Lessons program with Gayla Drake. She has been in lessons for over a year and has made great progress on her musical path!

When not playing violin, Lauren enjoys dance (aero and tap), spending time in her church group, writing, drawing, cooking and singing. Her favorite music is Irish jigs. “Irish jigs make me feel happy! I love getting new songs to play!” Her favorite musicians are Gayla Drake, Lindsey Stirling and Celtic Woman.

Lauren delights me every week with how dedicated she is, and how quickly she learns tunes! She loves the music of Ireland, and has been acquiring tunes since the very beginning. I have loved Irish music since I was a kid, too, and having someone to share and pass tunes on to has been so much fun. She's always happy, positive, and a joy to work with. Lauren makes me look forward to Mondays! - Gayla Drake

Lauren’s advice to other musicians is “Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t get it the first time you play. Keep trying! Make sure you play the kind of music you enjoy.”

She is a citizen of the United Kingdom, Ireland and America and travels to visit her family in Northern Ireland every summer. Lauren also enjoys time with her hamster, Bert, and her bunny, Ginger. 

Congratulations, Lauren!

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Tags: lessons, lesson, violin, gayla drake,
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Coralville
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Des Moines March 2017 Musician of the Month: Lucas Clark
By West Music Company
3/29/2017 1:17:00 PM  

Lucas ClarkLucas Clark is in the 3rd grade in West Des Moines. He has studied guitar with Mark Willie for six months. Mark Willie believes Lucas deserves recognition because “Lucas has consistently shown hard work and dedication since day one. He always comes into lessons prepared and can demonstrate his knowledge of the material. His talent and ambition combined leave no doubt that he has great potential to go far in music.” Lucas’ main musical goal is to master his instrument. His advice to other musicians: “Always try your hardest and never give up. Be prepared. Practice and listen!”

Lucas loves learning new songs and new chords. He enjoys performing songs for people and loves playing with his family. His dad plays multiple instruments and his sister sings and is a great jazz drummer. Sometimes Lucas performs songs for his class. Last year he played The Ventures “Walk Don’t Run” for a crowd at a ski resort. One of Lucas’ favorite music genres to play is surf rock, but he’s a fan of different types of music including: The Strokes, Bon Jovi, The Beach Boys, and The Ventures.

Lucas’ other interests include playing lots of sports. He loves soccer, tennis, and golf. He enjoys snowboarding while in the mountains, and at home he loves playing with his dogs and being outside.

One surprising fact is that Lucas’ great-grandfather was best friends with Lawrence Welk, and played with him before he became famous. Lawrence even asked his great-grandfather to go on the road with him, but had to turn him down. That’s awesome! 


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Categories: Conservatory, West Music Piano Gallery
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