Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2013, 7:28 pm

Visiting Artist series to celebrate 40 years

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By Jonathan Turner,

The pop opera quartet Destino will return as one of Quad City Arts' Visiting Artists in December. The group (in a different combination) last performed in the Quad-Cities in 2010 at Holiday Pops.

Students may not be thrilled to be back in school, but many look forward to an annual visit from a Quad City Arts' visiting artist.

This marks the 40th year forQuad City Arts' Visiting Artist Series.Since 1974, more than 342 artists and ensembles have participated in the program (offered at low cost to school districts) in genres ranging from jazz to chamber music, African drumming to hip-hop dance.

The series has reached more than 2.2 million people -- from preschoolers to older adults. Each residency of one or two weeks ends with a public concert, often for free or low cost.

"Many children might never have the experience of engaging with live artists without the collaboration among schools and artists provided within the Visiting Artist Series," Carmen Darland, Quad City Arts executive director, said.

School districts in a six-county region participate, including Davenport and Moline where every school in those districts annually hosts at least one artist from the series.

"We believe in extracurricular activities that engage our students in the educational environment. We also believe that we must never limit our students," said Arthur Tate, Davenport Community Schools superintendent. "Exposure to the arts broadens their horizons and, for some students, their interest in the arts may lead them to a deeper engagement in other areas of study."

"The program is very valuable for our students," said Deb Singley, assistant superintendent in the Moline district, which has hosted visiting artists for 17 years. Quad City Arts covers at least 75 percent of the cost of every visit.

"Students are exposed to cultures, genres, instruments and professions that they would not have had the opportunity to experience and appreciate without these presentations," Ms. Singley said. "Many times, the artists share personal stories of their own experiences and background that inspire the students to work hard, practice, be open-minded and to follow their dreams."

She said principals, teachers and students have told her the artists "are the most appreciated performances or assemblies of the year. These performances are certainly experiences that we could not provide for our students without the coordination, dedication, and financial support of Quad City Arts."

The new season, which starts Sept. 9 with a Scottish band, will bring 39 performers in nine residencies to the Quad-Cities, reaching more than 50,000 people in schools and the community.

Quad City Arts funds the program through grants -- including a major one from the National Endowment for the Arts -- and proceeds from the annual Festival of Trees, and Vanguard private concert subscription series, said Susan Wahlmann, QC Arts' performing arts and arts-in-education director.

School districts fund their costs in a variety of ways, she said, noting that North Scott funds visits through its PTAs.

Jeff Martin, music teacher for the Rock Island Center for Math & Science, said"Our students get to experience performances that many of them would otherwise never get to see."

In some cases, "they find out that they really like certain genres of music that they didn't think they would," he said. "It is extremely important to have these artists perform for, and interact with, our students. It shows our kids what hard work, determination and passion can produce in one's life.

"Most of the artists we have had at our school are very passionate and dedicated to their craft and this comes across to the kids as they listen to the performance and to the comments that are made by the performers," Mr. Martin said.

"Most of the artists make what they do look easy, but they talk with the kids about their education, when they started learning their skills, who influenced them, and how often they had to practice to get to where they are now," he said.

"Kids need to know that it takes hard work and drive to achieve as a performer. I think these visiting artist experiences give the kids a glimpse of this and, I hope, may inspire some of them to want to do the same as they grow up."

Curtis Fisher-Oelschlaeger, director of choral activities for Rockridge High School and junior high, said budget cuts have prevented him from bringing visiting artists the past few years. The district had for many years paid for transporting students from the three grade schools to the high school for performances, he said.

"In our rural district, it gives a chance for our kids to see live performances they would not normally get exposure to," he said, noting the district is considering a plan to build a consolidated grade school on the high school property, so there wouldn't be any additional costs for students to see visiting artists in the future.

2013-14 Visiting Artist Series

Artist                                            Residency dates            Public concert

Battlefield Band                         Sept. 9-14                        Sept. 14, First Presbyterian, Davenport
(Scottish music)
Matuto                                         Sept. 16-21                      Sept. 21, Galvin Fine Arts Center, Davenport
(Appalachian & Brazilian)
Meg Okura & The Pan               Oct. 7-12                         Oct. 12, Redeemer Lutheran, Bettendorf
Asian Jazz Ensemble
Sybarite 5 (string quintet)            Nov. 4-10                         Nov. 10, Wallenberg Hall, Rock Island
Destino (pop opera quartet)        Dec. 2-15                         Dec. 15, First Presbyterian, Davenport
Galumpha (comedic dance)       Jan. 20-25                        Jan. 25, Galvin Fine Arts Center
Hammerstep                               Feb. 3-8                            Feb. 8, Bettendorf High School
(traditional Irish step, and hip-hop)
Amadeus Trio (piano trio)           March 10-15                     March 15, Wallenberg Hall   
Jen Chapin Trio (folk trio)          March 24-29                     March 29, River Music Experience, Dav.