cover image Strings Attached: One Tough Teacher and the Gift of Great Expectations

Strings Attached: One Tough Teacher and the Gift of Great Expectations

Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky. Hyperion, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4013-2466-7

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.)