What We Do

A transition for Minnesota Jazz Education

For 25 years, Minnesota Jazz Education (MJE), formerly the Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education, has worked to create and support jazz education opportunities for Minnesota youth. If you’re reading this, you’ve been an important part of our journey, whether as a student, teaching artist, school or community partner, donor or volunteer. Thank you.
Today, we’re excited to announce the next evolution for MJE. Starting in 2023, we’ll be integrating our programs with Walker|West Music Academy in St. Paul. Throughout our history, we’ve learned that working together makes us all stronger—it helps reach more young people who might not have access to music education. 
Walker|West is an iconic cultural institution of St. Paul, founded in 1988 by musicians Rev. Carl Walker and Grant West to provide piano instruction to children in the Summit-University/Rondo neighborhood. Their vision to create a safe space on Selby Avenue where children and adults could pursue something positive and life-affirming has become a music school that offers music instruction across all instruments and ages, including strings, voice, and digital music, from infants to elders.

Rooted in the African American music traditions and idioms, Walker|West, for over 35 years, has been a center where jazz, gospel, R&B, blues, and western classical music are taught to generations of musicians and music enthusiasts. Many of its teaching artists and jazz students are involved in MJE programs. With its long-term connections with MJE, Walker|West is poised to strengthen its relationship with another music institution committed to jazz, America’s classical music. You can learn more at walkerwest.org.
What does this mean?

  • Executive Director, Katia Cardenas, who has led so much of MJE’s work over the past seven years, will begin work as the Program Director of Walker|West Without Walls in February
  • MJE programs, including “Experience Jazz,“ the Youth Stage at Twin Cities Jazz Festival, and in-school residencies will operate under “Walker|West Without Walls,” a strategic outreach initiative.
  • Look for updates on MJE later in 2023 as we transition.
  • Katia will continue to connect with you with education programs and opportunities from Walker|West, and can be contacted at katia@walkerwest.org

Please don’t hesitate to share questions about this transition. We are happy to share what we know as things evolve. In the meantime, please welcome Katia in her new role at Walker|West and in her continued support of the successful MJE programs that will be sustained under Walker|West. Both institutions are completely jazzed about what’s to come.
Justin Christy, Board Chair & Ykatirina “Katia” Cardenas, Executive Director

Over the years, we have offered a variety of programs that live at the intersection of music education, history and community building. Learn more:

Experience Jazz

Jazz in Schools (and Community)

Youth Stages


Dakota Combo