BRAMA, February 5, 2014, 10:00 AM ET|
The Life of a Respected "Tiger" Music Teacher
A Ukrainian immigrant's influence on a generation of students
By Adriana Leshko
On Saturday February 8, 2014, at 7pm, The Ukrainian Museum (in New York) will present an evening with the authors of Strings Attached: One Tough Teacher and the Gift of Great Expectations. Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky former founding editor-in-chief of Conde Nast's Portfolio magazine and violinist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, respectively recently added co-authors to their impressive resumes when they came together to write a book celebrating their famously hard-driving former teacher (and, in Kupchynsky's case, her late, beloved father). The evening was proposed and is co-sponsored by Branch 113 of the Ukrainian National Women's League of America, staunch supporters of the Museum and frequent patrons of cultural events.
At the heart of Strings is a man both ordinary and extraordinary. During his tenure as a public school music teacher in the New Jersey suburbs, Ukrainian-born Jerry Kupchynsky (better known as Mr. K) was an aficionado of the classic motivational combo known as the stomp and scream. Although his personal story was filled with a surfeit of struggle as well as triumph, for decades Kupchynsky preferred to focus his formidable energy onto successive generations of young musicians who he felt certain could try harder, do better, achieve more.
It's not surprising that a book about the ultimate "Tiger Teacher" would come boasting a cover quote from Amy Chua, the preternaturally accomplished Yale law professor whose book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom introduced the U.S. to the now ubiquitous big cat metaphor for high and unyielding expectations. Of Strings Attached, Chua writes: "A joy to read an affecting, emotional, triumphant story." And while Chua wasn't one of Mr. K's students, she is emblematic of the kind of overachiever his unorthodox methods produced.
The idea for Strings came to Lipman, when she, like many other former students, came together for Kupchynsky's funeral, and to perform together in his honor one last time. That trip witnessing how many outsize talents in a myriad of fields came out of Mr. K's classroom and attributed their success to his rigorous standards inspired Lipman to first pen a 2010 Op-Ed in The New York Times about Kupchynsky's legacy, and finally to come together with his daughter to write Strings Attached.
This special, celebratory evening will bring the critically acclaimed book to life via readings, projections, and music excerpts from pieces that play an important role in the book. It will also include a recording of a quartet in which Lipman and Kupchynsky, friends since childhood, played together as young women, under the watchful eye and ear of the man whose tough love defined and expanded their past, present, and future.
Books will be available for sale and signing by the authors. General admission (including reception) is $15; members and seniors $10; students $5. Tickets may be purchased online or, space permitting, at the door.
Saturday February 8, 2014, at 7pm
The Ukrainian Museum
222 East 6th Street
(bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.)
New York, NY 10003