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Arts & Culture

QCSO Hosts Instrument Petting Zoo

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QCSO violinist Carolyn Van De Velde offers a violin to a girl visiting the "Paint the Town" event June 8 at River Music Experience, Davenport.

In a new partnership, the Quad City Symphony Orchestra is bringing an
“Instrument Petting Zoo” to Mercado on Fifth in downtown Moline, and the new
Mercado in downtown Davenport this month.

The orchestra’s principal horn player and Director of Education and Community Engagement, Marc Zyla, says QCSO cellist Elisabeth Oar and violinist Carolyn Van De Velde – who both teach in the private lesson program – will be at the outdoor markets, letting visitors hold a violin and cello from West Music.

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Marc Zyla is principal horn for the Quad City Symphony and director of education and community engagement

“The Quad City Symphony first partnered with the Mercado on 5th around our ‘Coco’ concerts a few years ago in which the Mercado took the lead finding vendors for food and other various things and decorated The River Center, to kind of give the feeling of that we were there for Day of the Dead. We started there and we talked about ways that we could continue to partner together and a nice overlap is the Mercado on Fifth has a relationship with the Boys and Girls Club of the Mississippi Valley, which we are partners with within our group lesson program. So this summer, we thought it would be a great time for us to develop a booth that could be at public events and specifically the Mercado, in which people of all ages can come and try the two instruments that we offer, both at the Boys and Girls Club and other various sites and the Quad-Cities, which is violin and cello.”

An instrument petting zoo is not an original idea to the QCSO, but something musical organizations have used to spark curiosity in other communities, and Zyla thought it would be a fun way to do outreach in the summer.

“One of the things that we're passionate about here at the QCSO is sparking curiosity and I think that putting an instrument in someone's hand, it kind of allows them to think about what it might be like to become a performer. And it’s nice we're able to tell those people that we have a program for them to learn how to play. With our private lesson program, we can serve all ages and ability levels. In our group lesson program, we're going to be able to reach many more students earlier in their lives.”

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QCSO cellist Elisabeth Oar is also a teacher in the orchestra's private lesson program

The orchestra has 28 instructors for private lessons on a wide variety of instruments, including winds, brass, and percussion, and currently serving 106 students, including some adults. Zyla says in addition to offering group lessons at Boys and Girls Clubs in Moline and Davenport, the program will be at Jefferson Elementary in Milan, and classes for 3 and 4-year-olds at Bettendorf’s Family Museum will start in the fall.

Lessons are offered at varying fee levels, set by the teachers, and the QCSO offers financial aid if needed.

“I've been really passionate about seeing are orchestral musicians and all of their strengths -- we're very strong when we're on stage performing. But also there are many musicians within our orchestra who are very, very strong teachers. And I think for an orchestral association like the QCSO, not to tap into that and find ways to connect these master teachers with students within the Quad-Cities would be a very big missed opportunity.

So I know that we're very proud that over the past five or six years, the private lesson program has taken many shapes, but at this point in time, we are able to offer weekly private lessons, which is the preferred method of private instruction. And with that, we've gotten a lot of support, especially from the Morency Family Foundation, to offer these lessons with a financial aid component to reach students who might not be able to afford lessons otherwise.”

The Instrument Petting Zoo was first held at Mercado in Moline on July 2 and will
be again July 23 and 30 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and at the new Mercado at Quinlan Court, off River Drive in downtown Davenport, on July 10, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

For more information on the orchestra, visit www.qcso.org.