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Strings Attached: One Tough Teacher and the Gift of Great Expectations Hardcover – October 1, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Part biography of a beloved teacher and father, part memoir, the book's central character, music teacher Jerry Mr. K Kupchynsky, looms larger than life on the page—just as he did for journalist Lipman, one of Mr. K's violists, and Melanie, his elder daughter, now a violinist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. His teaching methods are extreme—cracking the knuckle on a student's thumb to emphasize correct finger placement—but glimpses of his family life soften his image. We learn about how Mr. K fled from both Nazis and Soviets in his native Ukraine during WWII, and about the stress he endured later in life when his wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The authors provide intimate details from their lives as well. Central to the book is Melanie's relationship with her younger sister, Stephanie. Lipman and Kupchynsky played together in a string quartet organized by Mr. K, of which Stephanie was also a part. In 1991, Stephanie disappeared from her apartment in upstate New York. The ensuing search, led by the Kupchynsky family and aided by Lipman, provides the mystery around which the reminiscences about Mr. K are organized. Though the book contains less educational philosophy than the foreword suggests, the authors' memories are more powerful for not being embellished with preachy conclusions. Photos. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, William Morris Endeavor. (Oct.)

Review

"This book makes me believe that one man can make a difference. The life and teachings of Jerry Kupchynsky, affectionately known as Mr K, certainly did for his daughter Melanie and her friend Joanne Lipman, and for legions of students whose lives were affected and changed by the powerful vision of this passionate, complex man. Even more importantly, this book reveals how music can become an anchor, a binding element for creating friendship and support during times of grief, illness and tragedy. By being inspired, the authors themselves become inspirational. Mr. K's work lives on, and we are all the richer for it."—Yo-Yo Ma

"A joy to read--an affecting, emotional, triumphant story."—Amy Chua, Yale Law Professor and author of BATTLE HYMN OF THE TIGER MOTHER

"Moving and motivating.... While tactics like [Mr. K's] may not have earned his students' immediate devotion, they never forgot him and often found the could achieve more than they ever dreamed.... A Must Read."—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

"A very fine dual memoir....
For those who had a figure like Mr. K in their lives, STRINGS ATTACHED will resonate. Everyone else will wish they had been so lucky."

The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books (October 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401324665
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401324667
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 118 customer reviews
This is a human interest story.
Monika
The stories from this book were written by a music student and one of Mr. K's and his daughter, Melanie.
silhouette_of_enchantment
This is a very well written book and I enjoyed it very much.
CB

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Sherrey Meyer on October 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Strings Attached was personal and emotional for me on two levels: first, as a young music student faced with teachers who held their rulers above my knuckles as I struggled to learn to play piano, and second, as a lover of classical music. Some teachers instilled in me the love of the classics but also my father loved them and played them often on Saturday mornings on an old Stromberg-Carlson phonograph. Both my father and my music teachers are all held lovingly in my memory as the roots of my musical life.

Strings Attached has received great advance reviews, and I join them here in saying that this book is a must read. And it isn't written only for musicians or lovers of music -- anyone with heart and a love of humanity will enjoy this book.

Within its pages, you meet Jerry Kupchynsky, a Ukrainian immigrant who came to the United States in search of a future, something better than he had lived through in the Ukraine. The layers of his life began in Ukraine and the multitude of layers grew -- birth in the Ukraine near the start of the Holodomor and a tragic childhood as a result, strength of character, perseverance, incredible work ethic, a love of music and family, and unimaginable joy. Yes, joy! Mr. K, as his students called him, was a ball of fire, an unfathomable level of energy passion for teaching, his students, and once again the music.

Mr. K's teaching style was one of high expectations, rules, and often impatience, but always with love. His use in dialogue of musical terms or anywhere the authors use musical terminology they have done so in layman's terms so as not to interrupt the flow of the text.

In re-enacting teaching sessions with Mr. K and his students, Lipman and Kupchynsky have cleverly adopted Mr.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In "Strings Attached," by Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky, the authors movingly describe what it was like growing up in the sixties and seventies and learning about music and self-discipline. Their teacher was Melanie's Ukranian-born father, Jerry Kupchynsky, who was known as Mr. K by the students he taught in East Brunswick, New Jersey. Joanne began taking viola lessons when she was ten and eventually went on to pursue a stellar career in journalism. Melanie, Jerry's daughter, is a professional violinist who has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1989. When Joanne was eleven, she and Melanie became members of a string quartet that included Melanie's friend, Miriam, on cello, and her sister, Stephanie, on violin.

Mr. K did not merely teach boys and girls how to play stringed instruments. He hollered, poked, prodded, and nagged. He insisted that his students practice for countless hours until they met his high standards. Many of Mr. K's students were selected to play in county, state, and regional orchestras and, as adults, some emulated Mr. K and became music teachers themselves. All of them learned to work together harmoniously with their fellow musicians. When Joanne was a child, she remembers that her parents approved of Mr. K's methods. Although he lacked tact and finesse, he achieved terrific results. Lipman says, "He yelled [at us] not because we'd never learn, but because he was absolutely certain that we would," and adds, "He made us better than we had any right to be." Today, it is likely that he would be condemned, if not fired, for being far too harsh and demanding.

The co-authors say in the book's foreword that for those "raised on a steady diet of praise and trophies--a little toughness goes an awfully long way." The kids who studied with Mr.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By amusingphd on October 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm always wary when committing to reading this type of memoir. Is it going to turn into another self-indulgent, self-congratulatory journal that speaks to few readers, including me? Nothing to fear here. This is a very personal story, told in parallel, complimentary threads by two childhood friends. It's about humility, faith, perseverance, devotion, and love. I laughed and cried. Ultimately, I was inspired to renew my passion for my own life's work. This is a moving slice of life, told beautifully. It's going to make Christmas shopping much easier this year.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tina Says VINE VOICE on September 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As an educator, I'm a sucker for a story about a teacher who makes a difference in the lives of his students. Mr. Holland's Opus is one of my favorite movies. So, Strings Attached: One Tough Teacher and the Gift of Great Expectations by Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky is a memoir-like book about Melanie's father, Mr. K., a man who taught many students how to play an instrument- and how to expect great things from themselves, was an instant must-read.

Mr. K's own life was anything but easy. Ukranian born, Mr. Kupchynsky spent part of his childhood as a refugee, and then came to America where he became a music teacher, married and had two daughters. Heartache followed him, as his wife was diagnosed with MS, and his younger daughter Stephanie murdered.
Yet, Mr. K. continued to inspire his students. His screaming and demands might not be considered acceptable by today's teaching standards, and I can almost hear students complaining to their parents about his brutal honesty and teaching techniques. Yet, many of his students continued their music education. Those who pursued other interests still credit Mr. K. with instilling such attributes as dedication and perseverance.

As Mr. K. aged, their teacher, who they at once viewed as larger than life- a big and intimidating presence- becomes smaller physically, yet still his students continue to look up to this man - a legend in their minds.

Joanne Lipman, one of Mr. K's former students, along with his daughter Melanie take turns telling Mr. K's story. From their experiences with him - as a teacher and father - to his childhood and relationship with his mother - they help reveal what made this man so successful and how he was able to mean so much to so many of his students.
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