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Strings attached

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  582 ratings  ·  141 reviews
Strings Attached is a powerful memoir about resilience in the face of unspeakable tragedy, an inspiring and poignant tale of how one man transformed his own heartache into a legacy of triumph and joy for his students.

His students knew Jerry Kupchynsky as “Mr. K” – the fierce, foot-stomping Ukrainian-born music teacher who rehearsed them until their fingers almost bled, and
Hardcover, 326 pages
Published October 2013 (first published January 1st 2013)
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E. C. Koch
Oct 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Think Mr. Holland's Opus meets Chinatown and you've got an idea of the story arc of Strings Attached. As told by his daughter/master violinist and his student/deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, Strings Attached provides several first-hand accounts of an irascible music teacher's explicit passion and implicit caring as he influences an entire generation of musicians. It's also the story of his youngest daughter's mysterious disappearance and Mr K's own harrowing, near-death escape ...more
Elaine Fine
Sep 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is at once a portrait of the Kupchynsky family, a memoir about growing up and "coming of age" in New Jersey between the 1960s and the 1980s, and the story of a man who, deprived of a childhood, came to love music as a young adult, and gave his children and thousands of other children the opportunity to have music become a vital part of their lives.

Jerry Kupchynsky, or Mr. K., as he was called by his students, first fell in love with the sound of a violin at the age of 15. In 1946, at t
Reindert Van Zwaal
An interesting insight in the life of a dedicated music teacher. I liked the musical references and the way the bonding which making music together was illustrated. However, the story line was a bit vague, as there is not really a plot, more a description of people their lives.
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! I can't stop thinking about it. At times I found myself cheering or laughing and then suddenly my heart was breaking. Always I was completely absorbed in the story. The writing and organization make it flow perfectly from one voice to the next. And I love Mr. K. I just want to give that man a hug!

Oh how I wish more teachers today would raise their expectations for their students. Students need something to aim for and I really think we sell them short when we don't push them
Margaret Foote
Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I purchased this book on October 4, started it on October 5 and finished it on October 6. Then I reread the book. I have not read a book this quickly in years; neither have I read a book and then immediately reread it. The authors, Joanne Lipmann and Melanie Kupchynsky, capture with beauty and poignance the story of Melanie's father, Jerry (known as Mr. K) and how his work as a director of a school orchestra influenced their lives and the lives of other students in the orchestra. Mr. K's life wa ...more
Brian Harp
Oct 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an absolute MUST READ. The touching story of a man who lived through every hardship you can imagine and was still able to give and find love everywhere he went, "Strings Attached" is a story about a beloved teacher who changed hundreds of lives by imparting his greatest gift: music. But that is all stuff you can find out from the synopsis on the back of the book. What they left out on the back is that if you choose to read this book be prepared to experience every emotion you can th ...more
Dec 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
If I could I would give this book a 5 PLUSE. The co-authors, Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky did a masterful job in telling the story of their lives and of Melanie's father, Jerry (Mr. K) Kupchynsky. He was a hard nosed taskmaster that ONLY wanted the very best from his Strings students. He wasn't easy on his students at all. Stomped his foot hit their fingers and yelled until they got the message. They Thanked Him years later.

The life of MR. K, born a Ukrainian, suffered greatly during WW
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very inspiring book about a Ukrainian music teacher Mr K and the many lives he had impacted. Towards the end of the book, it was painful and heartbreaking and yet uplifting at the same time as the authors celebrated the joy of life, the warmth of families and friends and the power of music. Mr K was truly an amazing teacher and father!
Strings Attached is a biography about Jarema “Jerry” Kupchynsky or Mr. K as he was known to his music students. This book was co-written by two former students – his daughter Melanie Kupchynsky, currently a violinist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Joanne Lipman, who learned to play the cello under Mr. K’s tutelage and whose acclaimed journalistic career includes a deputy managing editorship with the Wall Street Journal.

While I enjoyed Strings Attached: One Tough Teacher and the Gift of
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, biography
For me, reading the synopsis brought snippets of magical memories for me, and without it I might never have read and reviewed this book.

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 morni
Jake Eames
This book is full of every emotion you could possibly think of, but I believe the purpose is very clear. I think Joanne really wants the reader to feel a connection to the relationship between Mr. K and the students. This is easily done because almost everyone has had a teacher that they felt might have been much harder on themselves, and this book sheds some light on the subject and really tugs at your heart. At times I feel for the students because of the harsh things Mr. K says to them, but ...more
Meg - A Bookish Affair
4.5 stars. "String Attached" is the story of a tough high school music teacher named Mr. K who taught countless numbers of students to play music. I think most of us have those teachers in our life where we are sure that they changed us for the better (for me it was my 9th grade English teacher, Mr. McDonough, and my International Politics professor, Dr. McCartney).

Mr. K, like both of my favorite teachers, definitely was a teacher that would push you. Failure was not an option. They were hard b
Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Originally posted on my blog, A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall:

Strings Attached was such a personal, emotional read for me. It touched on many things I identify with and hold close as a musician and as a music teacher. I found myself thinking fondly of my own teachers who pushed me, inspired me, and demanded so much from me... many of them felt as tyrannical as Mr. K, and I am just as thankful for that as his former students are.

However, you do not have to be a musician to enjoy this book! There a
Jennifer Hughes
Oct 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nostrano
As a toddler, I would climb up on the piano bench after my older sister practiced, and I'd pluck out by ear what she was playing. I began formal piano lessons at age 4 and continued until age 23. My teenage years were spent under the instruction of a teacher who became a dear friend and mentor over the years. She's someone who I automatically think of when I consider teachers who had a profound influence on my life. So I was interested in this book about the power of a music teacher.

"Mr. K" was
Dec 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Strings Attached is a tribute to Melanie's father, Jerry Kupchynsky, her hard driving music teacher who was also Joanne's music teacher. He pushed them and inspired them and hundreds of other children in New Jersey to be better musicians than anyone anticipated. We follow their lives through childhood, music lessons, teen angst, music practices, family stresses, performances, nerd-hood, music competitions, college and careers.

Kupchynsky had a rough youth, growing up in the Ukraine during the Rus
Tyler Gehman
Oct 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-read
This book is a crossroad of genres. The authors tend to insert much of their own story into this biography of Jerry Kupchynsky, a driven music instructor, but this is because "Mr. K" directly impacted their lives. As a team, the authors alternate their narratives, providing a three-dimensional portrait of Kupchynsky's life and the influence that his music lessons and life had on those around him. The depth they add to his story is not often seen in biographies.
If you are interested in reading a
Oct 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: A British postcrosser (BeethovenFan)
Possibly the first biographical memoir written as an autobiographical duet that I've ever read, I picked this book up based on the recommendation of a British postcrosser. It exceeded my expectations, and I found myself reading long into the night to finish it in one sitting.

So many adjectives could be employed to describe this book: inspiring, captivating, heartbreaking, delightful, endearing, heartrending, triumphant, daunting, overcoming ...

Highly recommended. If you learned to play a musical
Brenda Marean
Feb 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful memoir of an amazing musician and teacher; a terrible sad story of a family destroyed by physical deterioration and loss. Joyous in that it brought back the magic music played in my earlier life.
Ray Frost
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: musicians, teachers
One of the best inspirational books on the power of expectations. Even though it looks like the end justifies the means, how else can you teach true confidence?
Mar 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
great story, inspiring, easy read
Lisa Miller
Oct 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nostalgic, inspiring, emotional. Reminded me of Mr. Holland's Opus in some ways. I loved this book!
Mary Naylor
Sep 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful and inspiring story.
Jerry Kupchynsky saw and experienced firsthand extreme cruelty as a child during WWII in Europe. Hence, he probably laughed if someone told him, back when he was teaching, that it was cruel to shout things at his students, such as: "Who eez idiot who play wrong note?!" His students at the time probably received little sympathy at home if they complained about Mr. K.'s teaching method, too. As author Joanne Lipman noted, complaining to parents usually got the response of: "Life is not fair".

Anne Marie
This biography was mostly interesting. I enjoyed learning of "Mr. Jerry", though I doubt I would have relished taking lessons from him. (It's not at all an ideal situation if you're scared of your teacher; a teacher that perpetually screams is nothing but a monster, at least in my opinion.) I have met teachers like Mr. Jerry, teachers who scream, teachers who supposedly believe that this screaming demonstrates their "high expectations". Such teachers don't care if they see a student cry, for the ...more
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know most of the people in this book. My daughters learned cello from one of Mr. K's students who is featured in the book. What I did not know was the story of Jerry's (Mr. K) life. The story of surviving heartless regimes - think Hitler and Stalin; of coming to America as a refugee; of learning the violin in college and going on to conduct award-winning bands and orchestras; and, of his personal struggles to raise his two daughters when his wife became chronically ill and his younger daughter ...more
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this would be a nice little fluff about an inspiring music teacher. It is so much more. Mr K goes on teaching, now, us the readers. We learn how a person can survive almost incomprehensible pain yet find a way to wrest value and meaning and produce goodness in the world. Music will be immeasurably more powerful in your life after reading this book. We need heroes in this world; Mr K. will always be one.
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book that shows deep insight into a Ukrainian, Mr K who with his mother starts a new life in America after WW2. He learns to play the violin and becomes one of the most fantastic violin teachers and orchestra directors in the small town of East Brunswick near New York. Written by his daughter and one of his many pupils it outlines the hardships and the successes he experiences in his chosen career. If you love music, you will love this book.
Lauren Read
Sep 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A riveting account of the influence of a special man -- teacher, father, son, husband, musician -- and the added elements of oppressive regimes, chronic illness, and a murder case. The co-authors make it delightful to read and both memorable & reflective on the aspects of education, family, and, of course, music. ...more
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cried the entire time I read the last thirty pages of this lovely book. Maybe it was because of I had a father who played the violin. Maybe it was because music has always been my lifeline. Maybe because loss and sorrow co-exist so easily with hope and joy. Just a sublime experience.
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting story. It's always fascinating to read about people who should not have achieved much due to their difficult childhood, go on achieve greatness and affect the next generation for the better. But so much pain and tragedy to endure in one lifetime...I felt so sad for him.
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Joanne Lipman, one of the nation's most prominent journalists, is author of the bestseller THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together. She until recently was Chief Content Officer of Gannett and Editor-in-Chief of USA TODAY and the USA TODAY NETWORK, comprising the flagship publication plus 109 local newspapers including the Detroit Free Press, ...more

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“It quickly became apparent that to Mr. K, there was no such thing as an untalented kid—just a kid who didn’t work hard enough. You are going to fix this problem, he said when he diag- nosed whatever was wrong, and there was never any question. Of course you would. It was just a matter of trying and trying and trying some more. He yelled not because we’d never learn, but because he was absolutely certain that we would.” 4 likes
“Yet there was something intoxicating about a teacher who had such absolute confidence—faith, really—in my ability to do better. Whatever I managed to achieve, he expected more.” 1 likes
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