The fine art of tough love.

"Inspirational!" - THE NEW YORK TIMES

"A vivid, often tender portrait...that ends up ripping your heart out." -USA TODAY

"A wonderful, inspiring story of a teacher who changed his students' lives" - Jeannette Walls, author of THE GLASS CASTLE

"This book makes me believe that one man can make a difference."
-Cellist YO YO MA

 "A story that all of us have lived - a clear, unflinching, deeply emotional story about that one person who changed our lives."
-BRUCE FEILER, bestselling author of The Council of Dads

"A joy to read - an affecting, emotional, triumphant story. Strings Attached is about how tough love can also be unconditional love."   -AMY CHUA, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother


Who is that one person who changed your life forever? The one who pushed you to dream bigger and reach higher?

STRINGS ATTACHED is a powerful memoir about the astonishing impact one teacher can have on the lives of generations of students. "Mr. K" will remind you of that extraordinary person in your own past. A small-town music teacher, he could be fierce, rehearsing his students until their fingers almost bled, but in the process he made them better and stronger than they had any right to be. What they didn't know was the tragedy he had hidden in his own life.  STRINGS ATTACHED lyrically tells his story, from his childhood on the run from the Nazis, to the disappearance of one of his beloved daughters.  His is a remarkable story of resilience, of how one man transformed his own heartache into a legacy of joy for generations of students.

Heartbreaking yet ultimately triumphant, STRINGS ATTACHED is a testament to the power of hope -- and a celebration of the profound influence one person can have on the lives of others.

Reading Group Guide

For a list of book-group questions, please click here.

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About the Authors

Joanne Lipman is one of the nation's most prominent journalists. As Chief Content Officer for Gannett, and Editor in Chief of USA TODAY and the USA TODAY NETWORK, she oversaw the flagship title plus 109 other news oraganizations including the Detroit Free Press, the Arizona Republic and the Des Moines Register. In that role, she led the organization to three Pulitzer Prizes. Previously, she was founding Editor-in-Chief of the National Magazine Award-winning Conde Nast Portfolio, and a Deputy Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal, where she supervised coverage that earned three Pulitzer Prizes.  She has advised news organizations such as CNN, Yahoo, and WNYC, and has appeared on CNN, CBS, CNBC, NBC and PBS, among others. She has written for publications including the New York Times, Time, Newsweek, and Harvard Business Review. She is also a CNBC contributor and author of the No. 1 bestseller That's What She Said, published by William Morrow.

Melanie Kupchynsky has been a violinist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for more than 20 years, during which time the symphony has won 21 Grammys. She began studying violin at the age of four with her father and the subject of Strings Attached, Jerry “Mr. K” Kupchynsky. Melanie began her career with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra under the direction of John Williams. With the CSO, she has performed around the globe under the world’s greatest conductors and with the world’s most prominent soloists. She is also an active chamber musician, and a participant in the Chicago Symphony's "Citizen Musician" community outreach program. 

  Learn more about Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky.


For information about speaking engagements and appearances, please contact Don Walker ( or Alexa Sternschein ( at the Harry Walker Agency. Questions or comments for the authors? Please use the form below:

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Strings Attached Playlist

Want to hear the music while you read? Follow these links:

Edelweiss  (chapter 1)
Melanie’s first solo performance, at age five. Her mother, who was supposed to accompany her on the piano, was stricken by MS shortly before and was unable to play; a substitute filled in.  This was also the first time Joanne and Melanie crossed paths; Joanne, also age five, happened to be in the audience that day.

Concertino, by Philip Gordon  (chapter 4)
Composer Philip Gordon wrote this piece especially for Melanie when she was 8 years old.  Here, a live recording as she debuts it at a national teachers convention in Atlantic City, NJ, accompanied by the East Brunswick Junior High School orchestra, conducted by her father “Mr. K.”

Haydn’s “Lark” Quartet  (chapter 5)
Melanie was already a child-prodigy soloist when she and Joanne, a beginner violist – both 10 years old – first met. Mr. K put them together into a string quartet with Melanie’s younger sister, Stephanie; they would perform across the East Coast through high school.  Here, a live recording of the quartet when the older girls were in middle school and Stephanie in elementary school.

Academic Festival Overture, Johannes Brahms (chapter 6)
This is a notoriously difficult piece, even for professional symphonies. But Mr. K somehow taught his high school orchestra – open to any student, regardless of skill level -- to perform it, a feat that was nothing short of miraculous. Onlookers compared it watching Music Man’s Harold Hill and his “think system.” (Chicago Symphony Orchestra recording).

"Air" from Orchestra Suite No. 3, J.S. Bach (chapters 14, 17)   Stephanie performed this beautiful piece at Melanie's wedding.  Years later, Melanie - along with Joanne and Miriam - would perform it once more, this time for a far more somber occasion. In this recording, Melanie Kupchynsky is accompanied by Sarah Bullen, principal harp player for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Beethoven Seventh Symphony, 2nd movement (chapter 16)
When she learned that Stephanie had vanished, Melanie spent all night calling hospitals, friends, and police stations – the start of what would become a seven-year odyssey searching for her sister. The morning afterward, this haunting piece is what she played with Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
“It was as if Beethoven were speaking directly to me, expressing my feelings in a way words never could,” she says. “Music was my savior that day. This piece will never be the same again.”(Professional recording )

 Meditation from Thais, by Jules Massenet (chapters 8, 17, 18, 19, 20)
The heartbreaking Meditation was one of Mr. K’s favorite pieces. He first taught it to Melanie when she was a little girl, still too young to understand its emotional depths. She later played it at her mother’s funeral, then after Stephanie disappeared, and then, finally at her father’s death bed, when she understood it all too well. Here she performs the piece accompanied by Sarah Bullen, the principal harpist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. From Strings Attached:
I fear it might disturb him, might bring back painful memories. But I play it because it says everything I somehow cannot: That I love him, and mourn him, and miss him. That I’m grateful for everything he taught me, grateful he has passed along this incredible gift to me that I can now pass along to my own children.
That he was right: I would thank him someday. That day is today.

TV Coverage: Strings Attached Author Talks

News coverage of a discussion & performance by the authors at the East Brunswick (NJ) Public Library.

Jerry Kupchynsky Slideshow

Jerry Kupchynsky: A life in photos, set to a violin performance of Meditation from Thais by his daughter and "Strings Attached" coauthor, Melanie Kupchysnky. First performed at his memorial concert, February 14, 2010.

Photos from "Strings Attached"

More Music from "Strings Attached"

This Concertino for Violin was composed by Philip Gordon for co-author Melanie Kupchynsky when she was 8 years old. Here, she performs it with the East Brunswick Junior High School orchestra in Atlantic City at a national convention of music teachers in February, 1970. Jerry Kupchynsky, conductor.

Meditation from "Thais" by Jules Massenet, performed by Melanie Kupchynsky, violin and Sarah Bullen, harp.

News about "Strings Attached"

The Federalist, "Legendary High School Coach Too Tough for Modern Parents," September 15, 2015

The Chicago Tribune, "The Starlight Book Club" visit with Melanie Kupchynsky, April 2, 2015

The Wall Street Journal, "A Musical Fix for American Schools," by Joanne Lipman, October 11, 2014

Strings Magazine Review by Barbara Bogatin: a "remarkable, engrossing memoir" November 2014

Chicago Tribune - Printer's Row, "Melanie Kupchynsky, Joanne Lipman on 'Strings Attached'" by Donald Liebenson, September 26, 2014, August 24, 2014: Review: "compelling and a page turner...The stories woven between these two voices make a fabric that is strong and richly textured."

Sinfini Music, June 17, 2014, Review: "A heartfelt memoir" that "contains a vital message for us all."

 The Jewish Chronicle, May 9, 2014, Review of Strings Attached: "From the deeply touching memoir, Strings Attached, Jerry Kupchynsky emerges as an inspiration....(who) imbued kids in his care with a tireless work ethic, supreme strength of character and the desire to become more than they ever dreamed possible."

 Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, "Stephanie Kupchynsky's Spirit Lives On," by Gary Craig, May 8, 2014

 The BIg Issue (UK magazine), April 28, 2014: "A thought-provoking memoir...astonishing"

 American Music Teacher magazine review, April/May 2014: "A touching memoir....the story is ultimately one of resilience and optimism.", "Why the Toughest Bosses Are Best," by Cheryl Conner, March 10, 2014, Hard Work & Self Discipline, the Keys to Success - live interview with Devin Thorpe, March 6, 2014

 Westport (CT) Now, "Authors Profile Remarkable Music Teacher", February 4, 2014

 CNBC Squawk Box "Where's the She-Wolf of Wall Street?" with Strings Attached co-author Joanne Lipman, January 6, 2014

 Minnesota Public Radio: "A captivating read...a gripping account of a remarkable life, told from two perspectives that richly complement one another"  December 24, 2013

 USA TODAY: "Strings Attached: Portrait of a Tough teacher," review: "A vivid, often tender protrait" that "ends up ripping your heart out" December 22, 2013

Interlochen Public Radio: President Jeff Kimpton interviews Melanie & Joanne on Developing Leaders in Arts & Education December 19, 2013

New York Times: Best-selling Education Books of 2013, December 18, 2013 "How to Bring Tough Love into Your Office": management lessons from Strings Attached, December 18, 2013

NY1, Interview with Joanne Lipman, December 20, 2013

  CNBC "Squawk Box," Tough Love in the Workplace, interview with Joanne Lipman, December 18, 2013

 Harvard Business Review, "The Fine Art of Tough Love," By Joanne Lipman, December 17, 2013

 "Critical Thinking with Andrew Patner," WFMT, interview with Melanie Kupchynsky & Joanne Lipman, with music from "Strings Attached," December 9, 2013.

  The Conversation Live with Cyrus Webb, Interview with Joanne Lipman, listen to streaming here. December 9, 2013

 The New York Times Book Review: "Inspirational...For those who had a figure like Mr. K in their lives, “Strings Attached” will resonate. Everyone else will wish they had been so lucky."  Holiday Books, December 8, 2013

WGN-TV Strings Attached is "the one book" that is a must-read this winter vacation December 5, 2013

The SUN, UK - FOUR STAR review - "The story of an incredible insightful read" November 29, 2013

 "Life Lessons in Strings Attached", The Home News Tribune, Page 1, November 17 2013

"Memories of a Mentor & the Music," The Home News Tribune, November 17, 2013

Times of London, November 16, 2013 Strings Attached, a "lively tribute" to a beloved teacher

 The Wall Street Journal: Strings Attached Author: The Importance of Mentors, November 6, 2013

 Howard Stern on SiriusXM - Leiberman Live at 5 - November 4, 2103

 The Telegraph "Music Helped Heal Me After My Sister Vanished," by Melanie Kupchynsky, Nov 5, 2013

NPR's "Central Time" on Wisconsin Public Radio, "The Key to Success"- interview with Joanne Lipman, November 1, 2013

Maclean's October 31, 2013 "A man whose life balanced happiness with tragedy, baby-boom optimism with immigrant struggle," Mr. K is "a symbol of perseverance in a fragile world"

Smoky Mountain News - Review - "A vivid portrait...Strings Attached gives us many gifts" October 30, 2013 - Review of Strings Attached: Five stars. A "captivating" story with "a heartbreaking climax." October 25, 2013

Q&A with Joanne Lipman - Book Q&As wtih Deborah Kalb, October 25, 2013

 Democrat and Chronicle, Strings Attached, October 22, 2103

 WNYC Soundcheck: "Is Music the Key to Success?" with Joanne Lipman October 21, 2013

Stand Up! With Pete Dominick, SIRIUS radio.  "Strings Attached" with Joanne Lipman October 21, 2013

 The New York Times "Is Music the Key to Success?" by Joanne Lipman October 13, 2013

 Laura Ingraham Show - Joanne Lipman discusses Strings Attached - October 9, 2013

 NBC 5 Weekend News (Chicago) Melanie discusses Strings Attached - October 6, 2013

Fox & Friends - Joanne Lipman & Melanie Kupchynsky discuss Strings Attached - October 5, 2013

NBC The Today Show - Joanne Lipman discusses tough love with Kathie Lee Gifford & Hoda Kotbe, October 4, 2013p

"No More Coddling!", October 3, 2013

The Tough Teacher Who Changed Our Lives,, October 2, 2013

Q+A: Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky, Co-Authors of Strings Attached,, October 1, 2013

Excerpt: A New Book that Asks: 'Are We Too Soft on Our Kids?', October 1, 2013

A Tough Teacher Who Hit the Right Notes, Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky on The Takeaway with John Hockenberry, October 1, 2013

Review, The Book Reporter : "The authors bring the extraordinary character of Mr. K to life...Mr. K’s subject was music, but the lessons he taught were universal..."

Melanie Kupchynsky on Chicago Tonight, September 30, 2013

Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results, by Joanne Lipman, Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2013

Meet a Tough Love Teacher in Strings Attached by Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky, Found Between the Covers Blog, September 25, 2013

How to Get Over Your Fear of "No", by Joanne Lipman, Glamour magazine, October 2013 - Advice based on Strings Attached

Yale Alumni Magazine review, September/October 2013. "Most poignantly, this book begs us to think back on all the 'Mr. K's' in our own lives."

 Kirkus STARRED review, August 18, 2013. "Moving and motivating--a must-read for practicing professionals and would-be musicians."

 Tough Love: PW Talks with Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky, Publishers Weekly, July 12, 2013

Publishers Weekly Review: Strings Attached is  "powerful" and "larger than life,"  Publishers Weekly, June 17, 2013

Latest Rutgers Scandal: Does Verbal Abuse Have a Place in Society? piece discusses Strings Attached, May 28, 2013

Buzz Books 2013 Fall/Winter includes an excerpt from Strings Attached "as one of the big books for fall." May, 2013

And the Orchestra Played On by Joanne Lipman, New York Times, Februrary 27, 2010

Thank You, Mentor

Who is your Mr. K? Share your thank you message.