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Arts & Culture

QCSO Podcast "Because"

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From the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, Marc Zyla has started a new podcast called "Because."

Inspired by the 2019 children’s book of the same name, Zyla launched “Because” in early March, with new episodes released every other Monday, peeling back the curtain on the classical music world. A 35-year-old West Virginia native, he plays principal horn with the QCSO, as well as working as director of education and community engagement, and is the orchestra personnel manager.

Zyla – who’s been principal horn in the QCSO since 2011 -- got the inspiration for the new podcast from strolling the magazine and book aisles at Target. He saw “Because” by Mo Willems, a New York Times best-selling author and illustrator, which tells a moving tale of a young girl's journey to center stage.

“The picture on the front cover caught my eye, which is a picture of a girl standing on a podium and conducting and there's like music notes all over it. So cool, a music book. So I pick the book up and read it really quick in the aisle at Target. I like cried in the middle of Target.”

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Credit QCSO
Marc Zyla

He says it’s a beautiful story about someone who gives up two seats to a symphony concert to a mother and daughter because of illness.

"Because those tickets were passed off, they were able to go to the concert. Because there are musicians, there could be a concert. Because there's a conductor, because there are ticket takers. Because they're this and because they're that."

“So it examines in a way that I'd not seen in a book before, really all the things that need to happen for these concerts to occur - for this inspiration to happen and at the end of the story, because of this concert, and because of the support that this girl had from her family, she was able to become a conductor and composer herself.”

Zyla wanted to spread that message to a local and national audience with the “Because” podcast – to explore why people do what they do, how they got to this point in their career, and how they were supported on the way. His first two guests were his father Luke, second horn in the West Virginia Symphony, and QCSO conductor and music director Mark Russell Smith. It was natural for Zyla to start the show with his dad.

“We used my dad as a way to have listeners who don’t know me, kind of get to know my ‘Because’ story through my dad, because he is actually responsible for setting me on the path to be where I am right now. He is a huge part of my 'Because’ story and I thought it would be good because you get to know him, but you kind of get to know who I am through that conversation."

“And my dad started me on horn when I was 5 and he was my teacher until I was a teenager. He guided me through choosing colleges. He's the person I called to celebrate when I won an audition. He’s the person that helps me consider what my next moves are. I mean my dad's a huge part of my ‘Because’ story, but having him on the first episode was cool for me and a cool examination of who the host is for anybody who doesn’t know me already.”

One of the main things Zyla wants to accomplish in “Because” is to counter the narrative that the music world presents performers as if they were born at their current state of greatness. He asks musicians and others involved with music to talk about their beginnings and how they got where they are.

“People can’t imagine Yo-Yo Ma’s first cello lesson. They can only imagine Yo-Yo Ma’s been this amazing musician his entire life. I think that, a concertgoer in the Quad-Cities is just amazed by the musicianship of Mark Russell Smith and his ability to lead an orchestra and all those kinds of things. I believe that we are innately talented in certain respects, we forget the amount of work that it takes to take that talent, to take that desire and mold it into what it is we see on stage. And so, I've always been fascinated by those stories as an individual."

“Now that I have a podcast, that goal is to kind of explore the people, places and things that had to occur for these things to result, which is interesting and inspiring I hope to the listener.”

Upcoming podcast episodes will feature Simon Woods, president and CEO of the League of American Orchestras, Janis Sakai, QCSO associate principal 2nd violin, and Ernesto Estigarribia, music director of the Quad City Symphony Youth Ensembles. Zyla considers the podcast another way of reaching out to the community, which the QCSO has done in many digital ways since the Covid pandemic started a year ago.

You can hear the podcast at because.buzzsprout.com/.