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Hello, and welcome to our newly updated website! Whether you are a parent, a student, teacher, alumni, donor, prospective student, or just curious, there is much to find here. So please look around and explore.

Founded in 1990, the String Academy of Wisconsin (SAW) has become one of this country’s model schools, offering students between the ages of 4 and 18 a comprehensive musical education with a focus on the violin, viola or cello.    Highly qualified artist faculty provide musical instruction based on the methods  and philosophies of Mimi Zweig, Shinichi Suzuki, and Paul Rolland.  The special training, experience, and expertise of the SAW faculty in the musical training of young people results in students playing with technical ease and musical sensitivity. SAW’s summer teacher training workshops are attended by string players from across the United States, Canada and Europe.

Spring + Strings = Spring Concerts

Spring Concerts

This Saturday, March 21, 2015 the String Academy of Wisconsin will present two Spring Concerts. We invite you to be our guest at one or both of these concerts. The first concert will begin at 10:00 a.m. and the second at 12:30, both taking place in the UWM Peck School of the Arts Recital Hall (located on the first floor of the Music Building). These concerts are FREE and open to the public. Each program is expected to last approximately one hour.  Programs will feature violin and cello groups comprised of students, ages 4 to 18, ranging from beginners to the most advanced.   In addition,  two winners of this year’s SAW competitions, violinist Ingrid Buschkopf and cellist Zach Buehler, will perform works by  Vivaldi and  Saint-Saëns.  This concert is generously sponsored by the Milwaukee Arts Board.

When: Saturday, March 21, 2015
Concert I – 10:00 ……………
Concert II – 12:30

Where: UWM Peck School of the Arts Recital Hall

The music is budding like flowers!(click on the flowers to hear Joshua Bell play Vivaldi’s Spring!)

Faculty Concert: Florestan Duo

This coming Sunday, March 8 at 3:00 pm in the UWM Peck School of the Arts Recital Hall, String Academy faculty member Stefan Kartman and his pianist wife, Jeannie Yu will perform a FREE concert.

The program will include:

  • Bach Suite for Solo Cello #5 in C minor
  • Haydn/Piatigorsky Divertimento
  • Brahms Sonata in F major, Op. 99
  • Cassado Requibros

We hope to see you there!

Concert: David Bebe & The Saint Rose Chamber Orchestra

TODAY, Sunday March 1st, at 4:30 at the PSOA Recital Hall, former String Academy of Wisconsin cello faculty member, David Bebe, is bringing a student ensemble to perform and the entire SAW family is invited. We hope many of you will choose to join us this afternoon for a free concert and an opportunity to greet David Bebe and the performers afterward.

2015 SAW Cello Competition Results

Thanks for your help and participation in this year’s SAW Cello Competition. We heard some beautiful playing today, and our judge was impressed by the quality, preparation and dedication. We are pleased to announce that Zach Buehler is our winner!

Zach will be performing The Swan with our chamber orchestra at the March 21 concert.

Congrats to Zach, and thanks to our judge, MSO cellist Liz Tuma.

String Academy of Wisconsin at UWM 2015 Violin Competition Winners

Ingrid Buschkopf
Concerto in A minor (1st mvt.) – A. Vivaldi
Dominika Lulewicz
Concerto No. 2 in G Major (1st mvt.) – F.J. Haydn
Congratulations to all contestants on their performance!
Thank you to retired MSO violinist Paul Mehlenbeck for judging the competition.
Also, thank you to pianist Steve Ayers for accompanying all fourteen contestants.

Congratulations to SAW students at MMF!

Congratulations to String Academy students who participated in UWM’s Milwaukee Music Festival this past weekend. Bravo for a great performance Saturday night!

The Season of Giving

Dear Friend,

Each year, 150 children ages 4-18, from all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, study violin, viola, and cello performance at the String Academy of Wisconsin. With careful guidance from professional artist faculty, students engage in a challenging course of study that includes private and group instruction, weekly classes in music theory, and ear training. This comprehensive learning experience with its many performing opportunities offers much more than simply a music education. Students also learn self-discipline and poise, which will serve them well throughout their lives.

The Academy strives to make an excellent music education affordable for all. Each year, we provide scholarships and instruments to at least 36 students as part of the Urban Students in Arts Outreach Program. Participating families contribute a portion of what they can toward tuition. String Academy faculty provide instruction for students with demonstrated potential and a strong desire to learn in our program, including outreach sites at two MPS schools, Escuela Vieau and Cass Street. The students also come to UWM for weekly group instruction and performances.

As an independent nonprofit organization, please consider some of our annual expenses:

  • Urban Students in Arts Outreach Program – $75,000
  • Piano Accompanists – $8,000
  • Instruments/Music – $3,000

The arts are fundamental to our humanity and a crucial factor in academic and professional success. As one alum recently wrote, “I learned so much during my SAW years and it has proved valuable in my work today.”  Please help us make excellent string instruction accessible to all deserving students in the Milwaukee community, regardless of their circumstances. We are able to accept your donations online through PayPal, which is both safe and easy. Your gift of any amount matters and is greatly appreciated.


Darcy Drexler,

Executive Director

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The String Academy of Wisconsin

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Halloween Photos

Check out the latest set of photographic magic from Saturday’s 12:30 Halloween Concert by SAW parent and photographer Jonathan Kirn. Thank you, Jon!

To see the full set of photos, click here:
(You may order prints or digital downloads)

Creepy Crawly Concerts Coming!

Please join us on Saturday November 1st at 10:00 and 12:30 for our upcoming Halloween Concerts at the String Academy.  You won’t want to miss seeing the kids in costumes performing some fun and spooky music for the season.  These free concerts will both take place  at the Peck School of the Arts Recital Hall.  Hope you can come!

String Academy Salutes 2014 High School Graduates

These six students collectively attended a total of 64 years at SAW!  We are proud of their high school accomplishments and excited about what lays in store for them. Some of their String Academy highlights included Violin Virtuosi trips and performances at  Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and at Northwestern University for Violin Pedagogy weekends(2014 and 2011), the SAW 20th Anniversary Gala in 2010, the 2009 Cellisti cello trip/performances in Miami, Florida (Florida Cello club conference) , SAW Summer Chamber Music Festivals,  and the many, many performances given over the years at String Academy and throughout the Greater Milwaukee area. Please read below about these six graduates and what they are doing now.

Julia Pantak

Julia studied violin at SAW for 10 years. She is  attending the Rhode Island School of Design this Fall. A fond memory at the String Academy includes playing in the Mitchell Park Conservatory under the domes during the Chamber Music Festival.

Julia  graduated from Pius XI High School in the top 6% of her class and was a four year Honor Roll student. She took 7 AP classes including 3 in Art and had a cumulative GPA of 4.3 She was a member of National Honor Society, Polish Club, Art Club, and served as a school ambassador. Julia held a Discovery World Design Futurist Internship since 2013 and participated in the RISD Pre-college Program in painting (Summer 2013).

Her Art achievements included the 2014 National Young Arts Visual Arts Winner – Merit Award and attended the YoungArts LA Program in California. In Scholastic Art Awards, she received 2 Regional Gold Key Portfolios, 1 Regional Gold Key Individual,  and 1 National Silver Medal Individual. And Julia was the 2014 1st Place winner in Visual Arts for the Art Institute of Cleveland’s  2D/3D competition. She went on mission work trips for various organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Animal Rescue in Costa Rica. Julia won first place in the Concurso Oral Spanish Competition and was a member of the Pius Cross Country and Track  teams.

Katie Wasielewski

Katie was 2014 valedictorian at Rufus King High School.  She is  now attending the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD.  Katie studied cello at the String Academy starting in 2003.

“My fondest memories are most certainly associated with I Cellisti.  I recall being nervous to join this elite group at a young age- I was only in 5th or 6th grade and looked up to many of the high school cello students in the group.  I will remember the trip to Miami Florida- the masterclasses, the concerts, and of course, the snorkeling.  I will remember Cellisti feverishly practicing up until the very last moment before each concert.  I will remember the friendships formed in Cellisti. Lastly, I will remember, and be thankful for the valuable instruction I have received at the String Academy”. Katie was a winner in the String Academy’s cello competition and soloed with the SAW chamber orchestra.  Last fall, she presented a full senior recital. She also participated in the Summer Chamber Music Festivals and played in various guest masterclasses throughout her years at SAW.  At Rufus King, she served as principal cellist in the orchestra and received 4 exemplary soloist awards at WSMA. She was a featured performer at the WI state music convention.

In high school, Katie was a member of National Honor Society, in addition to the Spanish and Science National Honors Societies, and Mathletes. She also played varsity Softball (4 years) and received  All-conference selection (4 years), All-district selection (2 years), and was selected for the WSFCA all-star game.

Bertrand Stone

Bertrand is a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with  Mathematics as his likely major. He was a violin student  at the String Academy for 13 years.

Bertrand received Honorable Mentions in the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Young Artist competition (2012, 2013, 2014) and was winner of the 2012 String Academy of Wisconsin Violin competition.  As a Violin Virtuosi member, he traveled to Baltimore, MD last April and performed with the group at the John Hopkins Violin Pedagogy Weekend.  Bertrand also was a soloist in the Masterclass Series that was presented at the Peabody Conservatory.  He performed in SAW’s summer Chamber Music Festivals and numerous Violin Teacher Workshop recitals.

Bertrand  was a  2014 National Merit Scholar, as well as a Finalist in the Intel ISEF in 2012, 2013, and 2014.  He also won Honorable Mention in the AMS Karl Menger Award; and was the only Wisconsin student to be a semifinalist in both the 2013-14 Siemens competition and the 2014 Intel Science Talent Search. Bertrand was one of 83 participants worldwide to attend the  30th annual Research Science Institute (RSI) at MIT in 2013.

Bertrand also has been a volunteer at the Columbia/St. Mary Cancer Center playing violin music for patients of the Chemotherapy Center.

Wentong Zhang

Wentong is attending Harvard University this fall, with the intention of majoring in pure mathematics. “I was  at the String Academy for 10 years. Some of my favorite experiences were  the 20th Anniversary Gala in 2010 and last year’s Violin Virtuosi trip to Peabody Conservatory (Baltimore) for the Violin Pedagogy Weekend.  Both events were just very, very fun (especially the Baltimore trip) and educational at the same time. It’s definitely interesting to see how my experiences have changed as I have matured as a musician, and I think I’ve just really enjoyed the general experience. I’m extremely glad that I was introduced to classical music as an active performer, not just a listener: it definitely strengthens one’s ability to understand and simply feel the music, instead of enjoying it artificially. Truly, I’m glad that I learned to play the violin: it’s really a special instrument to play.”

Wentong attended the 2012 National Symphony Summer Music Institute in Washington, DC on full fellowship and served as 3rd Chair, First Violin, in the Orchestra. He served as Concertmaster for three Orchestras: Wisconsin State Honors Orchestra (2013-14), Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, Senior Symphony (2013-14); and Whitefish Bay High School Orchestra (2012-14).  Wentong won many awards in music competitions, including the winner of the UWM Young Artist Competition, a winner of both levels of the SAW violin competition, a semi-finalist in MSO Young Artist Competitions, and a semi-finalist in High School Showcase Competition. At SAW, Wentong performed in several guest masterclasses including for Gil Shaham.

Wentong was one of 9 statewide Presidential Scholar semi-finalists in 2014. He scored a perfect 36 on the ACT. Wentong was one of the two students in Wisconsin who qualified for United States of America Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO) in 2014 and one of four semi-finalists in Siemens Competition from Wisconsin in 2013. In tennis, Wentong ranked No. 1 in Wisconsin for Boys 14 by the United States Tennis Association (USTA).

Allen Kang

Allen Kang is attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His interests include mathematics and science. He was a cello student at the String Academy for six years. As a member of the Cellisti ensemble, he performed throughout Milwaukee. Allen was a winner of SAW’s 2014 cello competition and soloed on the school’s Scholarship Benefit Concert. He participated as a performer in the Summer Chamber Music Festivals and guest masterclasses throughout his SAW years. Last May, Allen was cello soloist with the Shorewood High School Orchestra. After graduating, Allen wrote, “Thank you for everything. SAW is wonderful”.

Kartik Papatla

Kartik Papatla is attending Harvard University this Fall with interests in engineering, mathematics and chemistry.  He studied at the String Academy for 13 years and was a member of the Cellisti cello ensemble traveling to Florida in 2009. In 2013 and 2014, he was a member (assistant principal cello) of the National Youth Orchestra performing across the U. S. and Europe.  During Kartik’s high school career, he won several concerto competitions including those of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra in addition to SAW cello  competitions, soloing with the orchestras in 2012. He won the WI division of the 2011 ASTA solo competition and also  received Honorable Mentions with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, UWM Young Artists, and MYSO Senior Symphony competitions.  Kartik performed in Helsinki and Russia with his high school orchestra and served in principal roles in MYSO, traveling with Senior Symphony to Vienna and Prague. He was also a part of the Homestead High School Forensics team.