Strings Attached

Curtis Park cellist and educator shares her love of music

By Jessica Laskey
December 2020

Krystyna Taylor fell in love with the cello the way many people do—she saw world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma perform. The fact that she saw him on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” as a child should tell you that Taylor has loved the cello for a long time (she recently turned 40).

Taylor has gone on to quite an extensive cello career of her own thanks to that early exposure. The Santa Barbara native started afterschool cello lessons in fifth grade and then joined a swing band started by her grandfather. She reports the group was composed of “me, my little sister and these 70- and 80-year-old guys.”

By middle school, she was gigging on the street and at farmers markets, hiring herself out for weddings and, by her early teens, performing with the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony. She won classical string competitions that paid for her lessons, various music camps and, eventually, a full scholarship to study cello performance at Sacramento State in 1998.

While earning her Bachelor of Music degree, Taylor joined the school’s Strings Project, which teaches undergrads how to run an educational music program with the help of a master teacher. The experience showed Taylor how much she loved teaching—and inspired her to offer her services to underserved elementary schools in Rancho Cordova.

“I walked into each school and said, ‘Do you want a music program for super cheap?’” Taylor recalls with a laugh. “Of course they said yes.”

Taylor taught violin, viola and cello at four schools over the course of six years and also started Sacramento Stringworks, a studio for private instruction in cello, violin and viola, music theory, sight reading, improvisation, the Suzuki Method, practice and audition techniques, and coaching for ensemble and chamber groups.

In 2006, some of Taylor’s adult students expressed an interest in playing together—an incentive to continue their studies. So Taylor created the K Street Orchestra, an adult “late-starters” orchestra that has since grown to nearly 40 participants, outgrowing rehearsal space that was first in a member’s living room, then a law office basement on K Street, then a band room at a local school, then the CLARA in Midtown, then South Land Park café Barrio, and now at Parkside Community Church on Land Park Drive.

“The group just keeps increasing in size, quality and dedication,” says the Curtis Park resident, who conducts but also instructs the group by sharing orchestra lessons she wished she’d learned as a young musician.

“I work really hard to make sure everyone feels comfortable—no attitudes or egos—and encourage people to help out new members. It’s a very close-knit group made up of all walks of life. I love being able to give adults coming to music for the first time, or coming back to music after a 50-year break, a place to play together.”

The orchestra’s unique blend of skill and inclusiveness has attracted lots of local attention. Pre-pandemic, concert attendance often numbered in the hundreds, which thrills Taylor considering she’s never advertised and doesn’t participate in social media. Orchestra members have even formed side groups of their own to practice and perform.

Three years ago, Taylor started an additional group just for cellos called Cocello (a play on the Southern California music festival Coachella) after mulling the idea over for more than 15 years. She had long been interested in writing arrangements of popular rock and pop tunes for cello players of all ages and abilities. A 2019 Cocello performance—which included music from Led Zeppelin and Metallica—drew more than 350 attendees and included nearly 40 performers, which Taylor believes made it the largest cello concert in Sacramento County.

“These groups are like my musical family,” Taylor says. “They’re very supportive—like a cheer squad. They’re my favorite things in my life other than my husband and dogs.”

Sounds like the feeling is mutual.

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Jessica Laskey can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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