We had the good fortune of connecting with Psyche Cassandra Dunkhase and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Psyche Cassandra, how does your business help the community?
Music education is extraordinarily important for our children, giving them countless essential life skills that are carried into adulthood and woven into the fabric of our society. Children in music lessons are known to have increased spatial intelligence, pattern recognition abilities, and hand-eye coordination. They learn how to work together, break daunting tasks into smaller, more manageable parts, and communicate effectively. The study of music builds imagination, fosters empathy and develops creative thinking, while giving children a way to process, explore and express their emotions and environment. And perhaps most importantly, in the words of Clark Hodge, my dear friend and founder of the 501(c)3 Chase the Music, “Music has infinite power to create infinite joy.” By providing music education to children in my community, both local and global, I have the honor and opportunity to help build a generation of kind, compassionate, and innovative individuals with the desire, drive and tools to make the world the better place. Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a passionate cellist and artist-teacher, having taught cello lessons in the Boulder area for the past 14 years. I have the honor of working with around 35 students on a weekly basis, ranging in age from 4 years old to adults, in both individual and group lesson settings. I am on the cello faculty at Boulder Suzuki Strings, specializing in Suzuki method pedagogy, as well as the founder and Executive Director of a new 501(c)3 for purpose organization, Cellists for Change. Dedicated to empowering young people through music, Cellists for Change nurtures creativity, celebrates diversity, and fosters inclusivity in music education and the arts through representation, equity in access, and meaningful community engagement. This has been such an incredibly turbulent year, from a devastating pandemic to an awakening of the atrocious systemic racism present in our nation to a horrifically polarizing election. Now more than ever we need to help our children stay strong, resilient, and confident that each of us is essential to building a future more equitable, connected, and filled with promise. Cellists for Change is committed to performing works from the rich canon of repertoire written by diverse composers traditionally underrepresented in the classical sphere, as well as commissioning new works that celebrate the voices of BIPOC, women, and LGBTQIA+ artists. My students and I had the privilege of working closely with Kari Clifton (Denver-based cellist and composer) and Sergio Marroquin (Guatemalan composer) to premiere two new works for cello ensemble over the past two years. This year, we are honored to have commissioned a new piece from QPoC composer Lee Knight and Jamaican-born poet André O. Hoilette that expresses their black lived experiences in our communities. The work challenges the nation to evaluate its dissociation between proclaiming Black Lives Matter and its actions and characterizations that clearly endanger and devalue black lives. Keep an eye out for this new interdisciplinary piece, premiering in July 2021! My students and I also nurture a much-treasured friendship with Escuela de Cuerdas, a school of music in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. This relationship has allowed for valuable musical and cultural exchange between students here and students in Huehue, reaffirming our shared humanity and inspiring young musicians to make a positive impact on their global community. Cellists for Change has been able to fund four educational programs in villages throughout the Western Highlands of Guatemala that combine the sharing of music with the delivery of much needed food and other essential items. I am so excited to see this partnership blossom further in the upcoming years. Cellists for Change aspires to ensure all young people have access to learning, creating, and performing experiences. If you have a child or know of a child who would be empowered by the mission and vision of Cellists for Change, please reach out to me at cellistsforchange@gmail.com!  Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The next time my best friend is able to visit, we will spend at least three days hugging each other and jumping up and down with joy and relief at being able to see and hug each other again! After that, there are countless natural, culinary, and cultural treasures tucked in the mountain towns that are my neighborhood to share with her and her family. Our week together will undoubtedly involve lots of time spent outdoors in the incredible beauty that is my backyard. Mud Lake, one of my wife and my favorite easy walking trails just outside Nederland, offers a high-altitude reflective pool and nearby forest, the perfect environment for naturalists of all ages and folks who are still adjusting to our altitude up here at over 8,000 ft. After a walk around the lake, we might mosey into Nederland proper to pick up some treats at our proud little Mountain People’s Co-Op before taking my goddaughters to experience the magic that is the Carousel of Happiness. This beautifully refurbished carousel features 56 whimsical, hand-carved animals on a restored 1910 Looff carousel that turns to the music of a 1913 Wurlitzer band organ, bringing immense joy to all who ride it! And the story behind the carousel is just as magical as the animals themselves. As a young Marine in Vietnam, Scott Harrison received a tiny music box that he held to his ear to distract him from the horror of the war going on around him. The music, Chopin’s “Tristesse”, brought him a peaceful image of a carousel in a mountain meadow. After returning home, he rescued an abandoned carousel in Utah and spent 26 years hand-carving animals to bring it back to life. The Carousel of Happiness will always hold an extra special place in heart, as it is where my wife and I exchanged our wedding vows in 2018. After riding the Carousel, we will inevitably be hungry for lunch so will head over to the cozy, intimate atmosphere offered at our award-winning local Himalayan eatery, Kathmandu. Everything they serve is amazing, though we can never talk ourselves into getting anything but our favorite Vegetarian Combo with a local Ellie’s Brown Ale. Before heading home, we might treat my goddaughters (and ourselves!) to a homemade, hand turned ice cream at Blue Owl Books, a unique and delightfully funky bookstore offering a large selection of new and used books and gifts. If we are lucky, there might just be some live music happening! Just down Peak-to-Peak Highway from Ned, my hometown of Ward also has many treasures to share. Within walking distance of my permaculture home is the Glass Tipi Gallery, home to 60+ local artists and featuring gorgeous paintings, jewelry, sculptures, and fiber arts. Perhaps my favorite offering here are the rovings of hand-carded, naturally dyed wool, vibrantly colored gold by aspen leaves from the stand on the hillside visible through the gallery’s windows. After perusing the immense talent of our local artists, we would likely walk a few blocks further to Morrocco’s for a delicious homemade Italian dinner. Both a culinary and cultural experience, Morrocco’s offers a stunning meal in a stunning setting, down to the antique wooden nails with which the gorgeous historic wooden structure was built back in the day. My favorite menu item, however, might just be their blueberry pancakes, meaning we will definitely be back for breakfast before my BFF heads home! Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am deeply inspired by and indebted to my mom, Deb Dunkhase. As I was growing up, she served as the Executive Director of the Iowa Children’s Museum and was passionately devoted to providing play-based educational experiences for children in our community. Now that she is retired, my mom keeps just as busy (if not more so!) running the nonprofit Open Heartland, a grassroots, community-based initiative serving Central American and Mexican families working to make their homes in Johnson County, IA, and teaching a course at the University of Iowa on Nonprofit Organizational Effectiveness. My mom is also the Team Leader for Iowa MOST (Miles of Smiles Team), a Rotary project that takes a team of doctors, dentists, nurses, medical students, and volunteers to Guatemala to bring hope and healing to children and adults in need of cleft lip and palate surgeries, as well as cataract surgeries. It was my own participation in Iowa MOST that connected me to Escuela de Cuerdas, a school of music in Huehuetenango with which I’ve had many inspiring collaborations. My mom’s passion for children, education, and helping others has shaped every facet of my path as a musician and educator. My mom is a problem solver who envisions a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change. Her guidance, expertise, and unwavering love and support of my endeavors have been invaluable to me as I strive to follow in her footsteps of making a positive impact in my communities.

Website: www.psychedunkhase.com

Instagram: @CellistsforChange

Facebook: Cellists for Change

Image Credits
TKM Co. Lindsay Lidge

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