Up Tempo! Student Stories

Unparalleled Learning

For students, the key to an excellent learning experience is a knowledgeable and dedicated teacher.

Compelling & Diverse Programs

MacPhail is committed to providing students with the best music educators, world class facilities, and innovative experiences.

Broadened Accessibility


MacPhail’s goal is to provide music learning for all to ensure that no student is ever turned away from MacPhail due to financial hardship.

Unparalleled Learning: Nicholas Cords

Nicholas Cords with violin

Grammy-nominated violist. MacPhail Alumnus. Founding Member Brooklyn Rider.

Our 210-member faculty spans many instruments and genres to offer skillful, inclusive, and authentic learning experiences that create deep connections and amazing results. Their qualifications, expertise, and abilities could take them anywhere, and they choose MacPhail as their place to teach and make an impact. With Up Tempo! support, we can attract, recruit, and retain high-quality and diverse music educators and foster an environment that inspires creativity and innovation focused on student-centered outcomes.

For students who have enjoyed outstanding mentorship, it is often a matter of time before they themselves become mentors to the next generation of practitioners. Rarely, however, is this tradition manifested as clearly as through the career of the prolific Nicholas Cords. A global leader in concert music’s 21st century renaissance and a Grammy-nominated violist, MacPhail alumnus Nicholas continues MacPhail’s legacy of exceptional music-making as a faculty member at the renowned New England Conservatory.

His more inclusive approach to programming, musical leadership, and performance has led him to become a Co-Artistic Director of Silkroad Ensemble, a progressive cohort that aims to redefine the concert repertoire through a 21st century lens. A founding member of the groundbreaking Brooklyn Rider string quartet, faculty member of Madeline Island Chamber Music: Nicholas’ musical influence and horizons continue to expand.

Nicholas credits MacPhail’s mission to cultivate superior musicianship as a critical factor towards his prolonged success. “I was being placed in situations where quite a lot was expected of me… it’s not enough to simply have the intention to foster skill. I was offered the foundation for excellence, to feel that my musical voice truly mattered…and that model embraced a number of different potential pathways in music, a philosophy which continues to shape my career daily, with one foot in the traditional canon, and another in the music of today.”

Compelling & Diverse Programs: Matthew Tokheim

High School Senior. Pianist. Music Creator.

An investment in UP TEMPO! will help develop meaningful new curricula and teaching methods for students; from our youngest learners in Sing Play Learn with MacPhail®, through teens in our jazz ensembles, and beyond. This groundbreaking curriculum will represent many cultures and incorporate music software and technology knowledge essential for all musicians today. In addition, Up Tempo! support will enable MacPhail to deliver more programming to older adults whose participation in music programs connect them to community and culture. And support will sharpen our use and teaching of the latest technology to offer curious students access to cutting-edge recording and electronic music production.

High school senior Matthew Tokheim loves EDM (Electronic Dance Music). He’s classically trained in piano and at school is a band officer, a section leader, and does theater, but it’s at MacPhail, in the EMRA (Electronic Music and Recording Arts) program that he’s really able to experiment and express himself musically. Working with faculty member Isaac Rohr, Matthew has built his skills over the years. “Isaac has encouraged me to form my own ideas and think critically about every step in the mixing process. If I’m learning about a specific effect, like reverb, we’ll talk about its function, how it’s normally used and other options I have when using it, as well as the history of its use.”

The EMRA program is one of MacPhail’s newest areas of instruction. Using cutting-edge technology, and industry standard software, along with a host of other applications and technologies, students in EMRA gain the knowledge and know-how to create their own music and better understand the practices that form the foundation of electronic music production. “Every time I mix a new track it feels like I’m learning something,” says Matthew. “Isaac and I bounce around ideas about how we compose music and how to add polishing touches to finalize a track. I don’t think there’s another place you can find that style of collaborative instruction with a teacher so dedicated to working towards my personal musical goals.”

Broadened Accessibility: The Christian Family

Mother of six and social worker. Cellist. Percussionist.

Thanks to generous donors, MacPhail underwrites more than $1 million in tuition assistance and partnerships subsidy annually. But each year, our financial aid pool is quickly depleted as demand for need-based student financial aid exceeds availability. An investment in the Up Tempo! campaign will grow MacPhail’s endowment to offer more opportunities for more students well into the future. Up Tempo! support will also strengthen and broaden in person and online partnerships with K-12 schools, in the Twin Cities and across the state, supplementing the school music resources offered to students.

For mother of six and busy social worker Victoria Christian, MacPhail’s early childhood programs allowed her children critical on-ramps to pathways of success as artists, budding academics, and model citizens of North Minneapolis. The student-centered mentorship and resources available at MacPhail have offered Victoria and her husband Hassan the opportunity to redefine their family legacy. Today, their accomplished teenage sons Malcolm (percussionist) and Marley (cellist) are featured in school ensembles, excel in their studies, and have their sights firmly set on college. Scholarships and financial aid avail entire worlds of opportunity to exceptional learners like Malcolm and Marley Christian, giving them the tools they need to excel.

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