Thoughts by ETHEL… aka Quad Cities Visiting Artist

Hello from Davenport, Iowa – Tema here, reporting after our first two days of work for Quad City Arts.

We have had an absolutely spectacular time in our first two jam-packed days here in the Quad Cities and are looking forward to the rest of our time here this week–in addition to Friday night’s concert, of course! (7:30 PM at St. Ambrose University’s Rogalski Center)

I must say that I am wiped, but mostly invigorated by this vibrant community.

BHV4hoBCcAAGY0GOn our first day, we began bright and early at North Scott High School. Appropriately, there was actually a giant bed on stage next to our setup, as if seducing us after our long travel the previous day. The kids gave us a warm welcome, though, and any grogginess evaporated. After playing an arrangement of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” by Kip Jones (my fellow violinst), in addition to pieces by Ralph Farris (violist) and Dorothy Lawson (cellist), we moved onto a little treat, testing the kids on their knowledge of the “classics,” i.e., how many of them could identify the string quartet part from The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”. Quite a few, as it turned out. I must say this is the liveliest audience I’ve yet to encounter at 8:45 AM, and a delightful start to our week.

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From there, we went onto John Deere Middle School, where there was a regal, toga-clad bust of the man himself greeting us. Playing for ~600 kids can often be daunting! (Will they be texting vehemently the whole time? Will they riot against us?) But, I must say that this was a perfectly behaved group of students. They were respectful but enthusiastic, warm and wonderfully receptive.

Kids always love to ask about how we met (I was Ralph’s dogwalker; he and Dorothy go way back from Star Trek conventions; and Kip and I were at one point in the same ultimate frisbee league….. or so I sometimes tease!), where the name ETHEL came from, and how many years we’ve been playing our instruments. Come to our show Friday to ask us these questions, too, if you wish!

While the kids were certainly a highlight, I cannot emphasize how much I enjoyed our evening performance at the Moline Public Library. When we arrived, the seats were already nearly full (punctuality down to a science, it seems!), and we were delighted to play some of our favorite pieces in an intimate setting.

BHF7yfaCAAAd2-gTuesday proved no less exciting, as we began our day with a short radio interview for WOC 1420’s Morning Report Radio, and then moved onto Central High School. There, we encountered one of the most beautiful vintage auditoriums I’ve ever seen, which was improved further even by the arrival of 250 high school students, all in band or orchestra. If there’s one thing I can say so far for the Quad Cities, it’s that they’ve certainly found a magical key to get high school students enthused about the arts. I’ve never seen so many raised hands when we inquire about who not only plays an instrument but also improvises and writes music, too!  One day they’ll have to share their secret…

We then moved onto Rivermont Collegiate, which was also a wonderful facility, where we played for kids ranging from pre-K through 8th gradBHa5FTwCEAIFQAte. Looking around the room as we grooved out to “Watermelon Man,” I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps pre-K might be our ideal demographic. I’ve never seen an audience dance more in their seats, and I must say, it was both adorable and appreciated. If only baby-boomers felt so uninhibited sometimes! As we concluded with our final piece for the set, the Finnish tune, “Pellimani’s Revenge,” Kip asked if anyone knew where Finland was. One little boy confidently raised his hand and asserted that Finland is in Scandinavia, just south of the Arctic Circle. Both sweet and smart!

We concluded another great day at the Vanguard, Genesis Heart Institute, with a delicious reception/silent auction, followed by a 20 minute spotlight performance for subscription series members and board members. Again, we couldn’t have felt more welcomed into this thriving community; looking forward to tomorrow!

Tema Watstein is the violinist for the string quartet ETHEL, the current Quad City Arts Visiting Artist.

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