Ed. Note:  The following is a reprint of an article that appeared in the Pioneer Press Newspapers in 1973. Dorothy Andries, the writer, followed the NTW Jazz Ensemble and regularly wrote articles, many of which are located in the Scrapbooks within this website.  Steve Kujala (1973) was an important member of the Jazz Ensemble Program, not only as a performer and composer, but as a Student Director. Dan Kujala (1977) appeared in the Jazz Ensemble’s public television show, Made in Chicago, and in addition was a student head of Soundtraks.  Gwen Kujala (violin, 1975), as well as Steve and Dan, were members of the acclaimed New Trier West High School Symphony Orchestra. This article, resurrected from the past, is yet another compelling reason for this website’s theme, ‘A Story That Needs To Be Told.‘  


Kujala family is in tune

By Dorothy Andries
Lively Arts Editor

When the New Trier West Symphony Orchestra presents its spring concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday there will be four, (count ’em) members of the Kujala family on the stage of the New Trier West Auditorium. The guest soloist is Walfrid Kujala, flutist, and the member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Student soloists will be Steven Kujala, 18, flute, and Gwen Kujala 16, violin. Among the 100 junior high school string players who will be performing with the high school orchestra is 13-year-old Danny Kujala, who is a cellist.

The Kujala’s will perform the Fourth Brandenburg Concerto by J. S. Bach.

”I’m the only one not in the concert,” laughs Alice Kujala, mother of the children and orchestrator of the family’s hectic musical life.

”It’s· just as well,” she continues. “I’d never be able to get to rehearsals.”

MRS. KUJALA IS a violinist and handles a full schedule of students, both in her home and in the Winnetka schools. She is not interested in performing. “Teaching is what I love to do most,” she declares, ”I have music degrees and now a master’s degree in education from the National College of Education in Evanston and I feel so fortunate to be able to do just what I enjoy doing.”

But teaching, raising children and tending the spacious, comfortable home in Winnetka is only a portion of her life. A good part of her time is spent getting people where they are supposed to go and keeping each individuals schedule straight.

“There are no typical days here,” she grins. “But last Wednesday was an example of how things happen in this family.”

Mrs. Kujala was teaching at home until 6 p.m. Gwen had a violin lesson from 7 to 8 with Eduardo Fiorelli in the Northwestern University Preparatory Division in Evanston. Steve was teaching flute students in the Kujala living room at 7:15 p.m. and Danny had a rehearsal at Skokie School at 7 p.m. for an 8 p.m. concert.

“WE DID IT,” Mrs. Kujala says triumphantly. “We ate dinner in 20 minutes. I drove Gwen to Northwestern, Steve drove Danny to Skokie School, came back to teach and I went to hear Danny’s concert. We always try to get someone to every concert.”

Kujala couldn’t help that Wednesday night. He was with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra touring the east coast.

Saturday morning is not any better. And the two family cars barely seem adequate. Gwen and Steve are in the Youth Symphony of Greater Chicago and they ·leave Winnetka about 7:30 a.m. “Steve drives,” Mrs. Kujala says. “Thank heaven.” If Walfrid Kujala doesn’t have a Chicago Symphony rehearsal, he teaches at Northwestern himself. Danny has a cello lesson in Winnetka on Saturday Morning also.

”I drive my husband to Northwestern then come back and take Danny to the cello lesson. He can’t ride his bike with a cello,” she laughs.

ALL THIS CHAUFFERING and scheduling could wear down a less dedicated woman. But Mrs. Kujala does not feel put upon. “Music is a very important part of life,” she says seriously. ”Music and swimming. And they all started with music and swimming when they were very young.”

When the Kujala children were small, information about the Suzuki method of string instruction had not reached the United States. “They all started music on the piano,” Mrs. Kujala recalls, “And neither Gwen nor Danny seemed very musical.”

Gwen studied violin with her mother for a while and was just about ready to quit when the family moved to Winnetka. “There was such a tremendous string program here that it revived her interest and she started to work hard. I really can’t thank the schools and Milton Goldberg enough for that.”

“Steve studied flute with his father and was, as a child, the most innately musical of the brood. But after eighth grade he suddenly decided he did not want to continue with music. His parents were disappointed but wisely they did not push.

BY HIS SOPHOMORE YEAR at New West, Steve had begun playing in High School jazz groups. “I’m eternally grateful to Roger Mills and Sam Mages and John Vames at New Trier.” Mrs. Kujala smiles. “They did for him what parents couldn’t do,”

Steve is a member of the New Trier Jazz Ensemble which won first place in the jazz festival in Montreux, Switzerland, last summer. He won an award as flute soloist also.

In September Steve will go to Eastman School of Music and study flute with his father’s teacher. “That’s the only school he wanted,” his mother says, “We were so glad when he was accepted.”

Steve 1973
THE LIFE OF A MUSICIAN does not seem unusual to the children. They are aware of the plus factors of being a member of a major orchestra like the Chicago Symphony. When the orchestra made its first European tour, the Kujala’s went to Europe three weeks early to vacation. ”We met the orchestra in Vienna,” Mrs. Kujala smiles, “then we came home in time for school to open.”

The New Trier concert is not the first time the family has played together. In the fall of 1971, the three children and their father began to practice a Haydn Sonata for cello, violin, and flute which they had found in Europe.

An opportunity to perform the work came in the form of an invitation from the Unitarian Church which meets in Central School. “They asked Gwen to play something.” Mrs. Kujala says, “and she asked if the family could play the Sonata.”

It seemed like a good idea until the trio, minus Walfrid Kujala who was out of town again with the orchestra, began to practice.

“INTERPRETATION DIFFERENCES” is the kindest way to describe the practice sessions. “I had to be coach and referee,” Mrs. Kujala sighs, “It was terrible. They all swore they’d never do it again.”

The Brandenburg, however, is different. “Gwen’s part is very taxing, and she’s been practicing since before Christmas. It really is going to be beautiful,” she adds.

As the children were growing up, even when they were studying with other teachers, Mrs. Kujala closely supervised their practice periods. “That works very well until about sixth grade,” she declares. “Then they have to do it on their own and get their own motivation.”

AND EACH KUJALA child has worked out a balance between music and other activities. “Steve will be a professional musician,” Mrs. Kujala explains, “That’s what he wants. But the others could go many different ways and still be happy.”

Gwen, for example, is a good student and has gone to the Koster Site several times on archeological digs. Danny loves playing the cello and enjoys going to concerts but will not miss a game with his baseball team either.

Their mother is content. “Even if they never become professionals, music can bring them so much joy,” she explains. “It is something they will always have, as long as they live.”

In addition to the Brandenburg, the New Trier West Symphony Orchestra will play the Capriol Suite for String Orchestra by Peter Warlock, Suite for Strings by Robert Washburn, the Academic Festival Overture by Brahms, and the Fourth Symphony by Dvorak. Admission is free.

May 24, 1973