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Wirth Center for the Performing Arts

Wirth Center St. Cloud

The Wirth Center for the Performing Arts is a nonprofit music school started by Dr. Paul Wirth and Jim Graves in 1981. Formed initially as a school for classical piano, it now offers lessons in classical ballet, voice, cello, violin, trombone, marimba, drums, guitar, bass, and ukulele. It also offers early childhood music, rock band classes, a School of Rock camp, and a Young Artist Piano Camp. They also offer ballet camps during summer and just received the grant from CMAB for the Pillars of Hip-hop, which will launch in Summer 2024.

The Wirth Center, with a rich 40-year history, has been a beacon of music education in the Greater St. Cloud communities. Their students, diverse in their aspirations, have found a home there. “While some have pursued music at prestigious conservatories like Juilliard, the majority join us to explore their musical interests as a hobby. At the Wirth Center, we believe that music lessons are for everyone, and numerous studies have underscored the profound benefits of music on learning and emotional growth,” shared Executive Director James Newman.

Dr. Wirth St. Cloud“Dr. Wirth is one of the premier pre-college piano instructors in the country and has had a number of students go on to achieve tremendous success as musicians and in many other professions. Studies show that music students outperform their peers in nearly every subject, as well as on the ACT and SAT. Dr. Wirth has students commute from over an hour away to take piano lessons; these students are typically high-level achievers who enter (and often win) piano competitions around the country. But most remarkable is how Dr. Wirth – and all of our teachers – have the ability to inspire students. Many of our students become passionate about music, even if it isn't their chosen career path. We really strive to create students that appreciate music and the arts.”

“Watching students develop into musicians is extremely rewarding. It is incredible to see the excitement that students have when they come to their lessons—especially when they perform. Also, the School of Rock concert each August is always one of the most enjoyable events of the year for everyone involved.”

The Wirth Center is a staple in Central MN for music education, and its partnerships with various organizations in our communities continue to emphasize its value. “We have two early childhood teachers, Kathy Kampa and Karin Rau. In addition to offering classes at the Wirth Center, they also provide music classes at the Children's Day Montessori in St. Cloud. Additionally, we partner with St. John's Prep to offer students guitar, voice, and piano lessons during their school day. And while it's not a formal partnership, several of our teachers are involved with Project 37, who St. Cloud Shines recently featured,” shared Newman. “We have a great relationship with other arts organizations in the area. GREAT Theater, the Paramount Center for the Arts, and the Central MN Arts Board (CMAB) are valuable resources and have offered me a ton of insight and knowledge in my role as Executive Director. The Chamber of Commerce and the GSDC have also helped develop the school and market our services. The Wirth Center is truly a hidden gem in the community, but these organizations are helpful as they try to get more exposure and name recognition!”

Like many non-profit organizations, success doesn’t come without challenges. “Fundraising is always a challenge. As a nonprofit, we rely on outside funding to continue providing access to music education and special programming. We try to offer discounted lessons to everyone who qualifies financially and would like to start providing more programs to underserved communities, but that requires outside funding to make a reality. In addition, we’re always on the lookout for music teachers, board members, and volunteers for various events or committees. We post a lot of information on our website, but our social media is always the most up-to-date information.”

James ended by sharing that “music lessons are for everyone, and study after study has shown how beneficial music is to learning and growing emotionally.” It’s never too late to learn or grow a musical passion! The WIrth Center’s Young Artist Piano Camp starts on July 20th, the School of Rock camp starts on July 23, and the School of Rock concert is scheduled for August 1. “We teach private lessons year round and are currently enrolling for both summer class and next fall!”



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