Everybody has that one person who changes his or her life forever. For award-winning journalist Joanne Lipman and Chicago Symphony Orchestra violinist, it was Jerry Kupchynsky, known as Mr. K—a public school music teacher (and Melanie’s father). Mr. K’s subject was music, but the lessons he taught were universal: about perseverance, about the power of never saying “can’t,” and about excellence in both music and life. Mr. K. was notorious for his diatribes, calling students “deaf idiots,” and rehearsing them until their fingers were calloused and bleeding and their bows broken. He pushed them harder than their parents and their teachers, and through sheer force of will made them better than they had any right to be. Joanne’s New York Times op-ed piece, “And the Orchestra Played On”—which described Mr. K’s memorial service, when two generations of students flew in from all over the country to play a concert in his memory—shot to the upper reaches of the paper’s most e-mailed list. Joanne and Melanie were initially surprised at the response, but then it hit them: everyone needs a Mr. K. Those who have endured a Mr. K can handle just about anything. They are more resilient, they laugh a bit more. They can handle whatever life throws at them.
STRINGS ATTACHED tells Mr. K’s story—a narrative that is itself as absorbing as fiction—allowing readers to experience the world’s toughest teacher for themselves. Joanne and Melanie tell the story together and they are no strangers to collaboration—as musicians who spent their childhoods rehearsing together constantly, they learned to trade melodies seamlessly from one to the other and back again. And both women, products of Mr. K’s singular tough love, reached the absolute top of their fields; Joanne becoming an award-winning journalist and the founding Editor-in-Chief of Portfolio magazine and Melanie playing her beloved violin for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which has won over 21 Grammy Awards during her tenure there.
STRINGS ATTACHED includes more than 60 wonderfully nostalgic photographs from the authors’ childhoods—a lovely trip down memory lane that evokes the spirit and atmosphere of a time that will remind readers of their own past; and hopefully their own mentors and influences.
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