Whether in her work, downtime or at home, Miriam Zien Edgar has music on the mind. Since leaving her post as St. Louis Park High School’s orchestra director last spring, she continues her musicality in many venues.
The St. Louis Park violinist performs as part of the Minneapolis-based Ta-Ta Quartet. The female foursome met when they were members of the Roseville String Ensemble. Through RSE’s summer chamber orchestra, the women bonded over their love of music and meshing personalities, says Zien Edgar.
“We really hit it off and all follow really well, we work well together. We can all be our real selves, goofy weirdos, serious about music. We have that nerd level,” she says.
Noticing how well their natural talents blended together, they decided to form a group, chose the name Ta-Ta Quartet, created a Facebook page and business cards and began playing official gigs, Zien Edgar says. At the beginning of the year, Zien Edgar was invited to be a member of RSE’s board of directors.
“First of all, being all women, it’s a big deal—not a common thing for a quartet. Music can come from anywhere and we want to support and accept all music,” she says.
With two violins, a viola and a cello, the band plays familiar classics while also exploring new works. The quartet performs at weddings, funerals and at community events.
“One of the things we’re really focusing on right now is a series of tangos. The plan is to eventually put it together and have some dancers,” Zien Edgar says. “Some of the pieces we’re looking at are very common pieces people would recognize.”
The quartet has also kept Zien Edgar involved with her former students’ musical work.
“I actually have a former student that just recently wrote something, and we’re going play it so it he can see how it sounds,” she says.
In fact, her departure from teaching in the St. Louis Park High School orchestra hasn’t taken her out of the classroom. Zien Edgar has stayed on as a regular volunteer in her old music department. She has also started a private teaching practice.
“Being an orchestra director, I didn’t really have time to teach,” Zien Edgar says. “It’s been really fun to be teaching again, not just young students, but past [St. Louis Park High School] students.”
In her volunteer role at the school, Zien Edgar assists with the planning for the fundraising events to support the school’s biennial orchestra trips, a tradition that began in 2011 when she served as the director. The orchestra traveled to Hawaii on the most recent 2018 trip—Zien Edgar’s last trip as an instructor.
Zien Edgar says that the orchestra’s travels enhanced the students’ learning a great deal.
“They bring [what they’ve learned on their trips] back and our whole orchestra rises to that level,” she says.
Among all her students and years of teaching, her favorite pupil is probably her own daughter, Avadya, says Zien Edgar. While Zien Edgar opts for the violin and her partner plays in his blues-based band Union Shakedown, Avadya’s instrument pick is bit different.
“She really wants to play the drums, which I think is really funny. We’re string based, and she’s all rock n roll!” Zien Edgar says.
Naturally, with such musically inclined parents, the 5-year-old is learning an appreciation for music in its many forms. For now, she’s beginning with piano.
“We have to rock- paper-scissors over everything,” Zien Edgar says. “She’ll tell me if I’m good or not. At community gigs, she’ll come and sit by my chair, so happy to be near the music. She gets so excited, she can’t contain herself.”
Through her many musical roles, Zien Edgar continues teaching and practicing the art form she is so passionate about in the community she loves.
“I came through the St. Louis Park Schools program, I live here. I think for me, I was given so much by the orchestra and I’m so passionate to help where I can and keep it going,” she says. “I miss the classroom, but it’s fun to still be a part of it and invest in students.”
From initially falling in love with violin as a young child to her career as an adult, music has been a staple for Zien Edgar. Throughout her own struggles in her teenage years, playing in the St. Louis Park High School orchestra was what kept her in school, she explains. Music was healing for Zien Edgar in her adolescence, and she says the same is true for many students today.
“Orchestra is their outlet and it’s invaluable,” Zien Edgar says. “It’s like a family. They watch out for each other, all grades, all classes, every type of student. It’s really cool to [see everyone] come together.”
With sights set on another trip in 2020, the orchestra has several fundraising events throughout the year. The major performances are the December student alumni show and the March rock concert, where students connect with a modern band and perform with them.
“My heart is always so full at that concert,” Zien Edgar says. “We play a lot of classical music, but when you go out in the real world, you need to be able to apply [your knowledge] to the situation,” says Zien Edgar. She says that students know that they have classical skills but can use them in a modern way. “It’s a big deal to have that,” says Zien Edgar.
Although she stepped down from her official role at the school, much of Zien Edgar’s heart is still with the St. Louis Park High School orchestra. With her devotion to the music and the students, both current and former, she is quick to express her gratitude for the experiences she’s had as director.
“I loved what I was doing. It was my dream job. I’m also very, very lucky to have gotten a job I wanted to do so quickly out of college,” she says. “When you spend so many years with the same kids and same families, you’ve built a relationship. It’s important. You have a music bond and it’s there forever.”