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Review: Strings Attached by Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky

If you're lucky, somewhere in your past is that one person who changed your life forever. The one who pushed you to dream bigger and to reach higher, and who set you straight on what matters in life. Perhaps it was a coach, or a professor, or a family friend.

For Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky, that person was a public-school music teacher, Jerry Kupchynsky, known as Mr. K--a Ukrainian-born taskmaster who yelled and stomped and screamed, and who drove his students harder than anyone had ever driven them before. Through sheer force of will, he made them better than they had any right to be.

Strings Attached tells the inspiring, poignant, and powerful story of this remarkable man, whose life seemed to conspire against him at every turn and yet who was able to transform his own heartache into triumph for his students.

Lyrically recounted by two former students--acclaimed journalist Joanne Lipman and Mr. K's daughter, Chicago Symphony Orchestra violinist Melanie Kupchynsky--Strings Attached takes you on a journey that spans from his days as a forced Nazi laborer and his later home life as a husband to an invalid wife, to his heart-breaking search for his missing daughter, Melanie's sister.

This is an unforgettable tale--a captivating narrative that is as absorbing as fiction--about the power of a great teacher, but also about the legacy that remains long after the last note has faded into silence: lessons in resilience, excellence, and tough love.

Strings Attached is for anyone indebted to a mentor and for those devoted to igniting excellence in others.

As we grow up, the most important people in our lives besides our parents are teachers. Whether we like them or not, their influence can help shape who we are and who we will be. As I sit and reflect on "Strings Attached", this is one of those books that play in your mind a harmonious melody that welds childhood nostalgia with a reflective appreciation of the teacher who impacted your life the most. 

This is one of those books that I believe will resonate with you on so many levels. It will bring back memories and emotions that will challenge and have you appreciate every tough teacher you thought didn't care. What I loved so much about this book was the story. It's beauty collectively put together about the life of teacher Jerry Kupchynsky or better known as "Mr K". Although his teaching style may have been tough, it was undeniable the heart and commitment to his students to excel and succeed past their own limitations to aspire to be better.

This book was originally not going to be published. What a shame if it hadn't been. It was written by one of his daughters Melanie along with a former student of her dad's Joanne Lipman. The book alternated with each one of their perspectives and gave an engaging account of a person whose life defined more than his perceived tough persona.  

As a reader, through their engaging narrative, you get a vivid portrait painted of his life. They take us on a heart breaking at times but inspiring account of a man who as a Ukrainian immigrant survived an abusive past and was given a lifeline that inspired his will to live a life that could be much better. He turned his obstacled pain into triumph, raised a family with challenges and whose unconventional teaching methods may have been harsh at times but influenced generations of people who credit his tough discipline with their lifelong successful ethic.

I always say everyone has a story. This is one that is definitely meant to be read. There is so much more to this book that I will leave up to you to read so you can enjoy. In times like this, where so many kids have little or no direction, we could all wish we had a teacher like this.

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles

Book Information
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Release date: 10/1/13
Pages: 352

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