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The Making of Maestros

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UMD's Fine Arts Academy


UMD's Fine Arts Academy Performance  
Jack Campbell, left, performs with his Fine Arts Academy teacher Tom O'Hara in May

Jack Campbell is a guitar hero who says Guitar Hero is not where it’s at. “A lot of guitar players want to be like Guitar Hero, which is super cool, but it’s important to get a really good jazz background." Campbell, who took his act all the way to First Avenue in Minneapolis this July, credits his jazz background to UMD’s Fine Arts Academy.

This summer, the Fine Arts Academy is celebrating more than twenty years teaching students, like Campbell. It's evolved into a community-based arts organization that has at least 300 students enroll each semester.

Campbell started working with his Academy guitar teacher, Tom O’Hara, before he was ten. Eight years later, he’s heading to DePaul University to study sound recording and technology. To say getting into DePaul was competitive is an understatement. He landed one of only two openings in the program, beating out 60 other people at the audition. Says Campbell, “Guitar players are a dime a dozen and it’s hard to be heard. The Fine Arts Academy helped me to be heard because I had the expanded view of jazz and good perspective." That perspective often starts young, really young, and involves the whole family.

UMD's Fine Arts Academy fiddlers  

If you see Martha Han driving her kids around Duluth, you’ll probably hear a little Mozart drifting out the windows as she passes. “Whatever music they’re playing at the Fine Arts Academy, we listen to,” she says of her kids, Lucie, 13, and Nelson, 11. Both kids are enrolled in the Academy’s LS-STEP (Suzuki) program.



LS-STEP, short for Lake Superior Suzuki Talent Education Program, has been thriving in Duluth since 1974. Suzuki Talent Education is named after its founder Shin'ichi Suzuki. It’s a philosophy of musical training for children as young as age three that develops the whole child through a positive learning environment of listening, review, and daily guidance. So when Han plays the music her kids are studying while they run errands, the kids are learning. This is very similar to the way that children learn languages.

Han’s kids recently performed at the Fine Art’s Academy's eighth annual Fiddle Camp Concert led by LS-STEP instructor Stephen Baillie. “That ability to get up and perform in front of people at a young age is invaluable. It gives them a sense of wanting to play and the applause from the solos motivates them to get better," says Han.


UMD Fine Arts Academy fiddlers


Lucie Han, above, and her brother Nelson, below center, perform at the 8th Annual Fiddle Camp Concert
UMD's Kathy Neff  

Kathy Neff, with her dog Stella, has been with the Academy since 2001


That’s music to Kathy Neff’s ears. Neff has been the director of the Fine Arts Academy since 2001 and says that students receive more than an education, “While the University gives credibility to Fine Arts Academy programming, that credit really belongs to our faculty. They are vital to the success of Fine Arts Academy programs and have a great impact on the community.”

The Academy's faculty, it's safe to say, share the same aspiration for students like Jack, Lucie, and Nelson as Suzuki did, who once said, "I want to make good citizens. If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline, and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart."




More about the Fine Arts Academy


Deepen the lives of its students and enrich the communities it serves through programs centered in arts education and engagement.


  • Community Music Lessons
  • Kindermusik Classes
  • Suzuki Program
  • Summer Fiddle Class
  • UMD Voyageurs
  • Digital Art Workshop

Fine Arts Academy Online

Jack Campbell's "Absentee" video


Story written by Lori C. Melton,


News Features | News Releases
UMD News Features editor, Cheryl Reitan,

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