Best Musical Legacy: St. Joseph’s School of Music

Madeline Cieslak

With a history in Saint Paul that dates back to 1884, St. Joseph’s School of Music still has some pianos that originally came from the convents of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul Province, founders of the school. Executive director Madeline Cieslak is proud of the school’s long legacy of music, which continues today. Private and group lessons are offered year-round in piano, voice, band, guitar and string instruments.
“We have classes for babies even younger than 3 months, all the way up to adults who are in their 80s. Some of our adult students come to us as beginners—we are a wonderful school for novices,” she says. It’s also a perfect place for those looking for the highest level of music education; many of their students go on to study at well-respected music conservatories.

Cieslak, a singer and a teacher, has been executive director since 2008; she was a member of the school’s faculty from 1999 to 2005. She is also very proud of the teaching staff at St. Joseph’s School of Music. “We have a wonderful faculty, with advanced degrees,” she says.

According to Cieslak, the school doesn’t have an audition process. “We just talk to the students and their parents, and through that informal interview, we make a match between teachers and students,” she says. The school also offers a program for students over 18, called Coaching Club, allowing them a bit more flexibility when it comes to their lesson schedule.

In addition to recitals and other performances, students participate in Care Concerts in the Community, visiting community centers, local nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to perform for residents.

“The faces of the residents just light up when they see those kids, and the kids love sharing their music,” says Cieslak. Many seniors talk about their own experience as musicians. “There are many great conversations between the generations.”