One of the most exciting highlights of this year’s Lubbock Arts Festival will be a performance by the Dallas String Quartet (DSQ). Now, this is far from your “typical” quartet, as it is not even a quartet, nor are any of the members of the group originally from Dallas. This international group of six exceptionally talented musicians explores a repertoire of music that extends well beyond the classical masters to include contemporary pop, rock ‘n’ roll, and jazz. They have electrified their instruments and brought in drums, bass, and guitar which has enabled them to develop a sonic experience that is refreshing, fun, and decidedly unique.
Composer, violist, and founder of the DSQ, Ion Zanca (whose first name is pronounced like the more common “Ian”, not like the electrically charged molecule), was kind enough to join me for a Zoom call so I could learn more about their origin story and evolution. In 2001, Zanca moved to the United States from his home country of Romania to attend Louisiana State University. After two years, he transferred to Southern Methodist University in Dallas to pursue a master’s degree in music. He was playing with the local symphony when someone asked him to put together a classical string quartet for some public performances.
To better connect with their audiences, the DSQ soon began exploring new musical frontiers. Zanca explains: “We were playing the typical traditional quartets, Mozart, Beethoven – great repertoire, just, you know, not something that attracts a lot of people. And so, just for fun, we started including some other stuff – some Beatles, The Verve, you know, like Bittersweet Symphony. And it was just a completely new audience, people that had no interest normally in a string quartet or classical. I was like, maybe this is something we should explore. We began combining some of the famous classical pieces and some of the pop pieces, and we just created all kinds of cool and creative ways to do that.”
Zanca admits that he was, at first, hesitant to embrace the new direction the DSQ was headed. This is understandable as the format for the string quartet has not evolved much in the past 400 years and there remains a certain reverence for tradition in the classical world. Fortunately for audiences, he allowed the DSQ to evolve organically and was brave enough to dive into the uncharted waters of other musical genres. Soon they decided to plug in their instruments and have even abandoned sheet music for iPads. When two of the original members left the group to pursue other interests, a decision was made to bring in bass, drums, and guitar resulting in a de facto sextet.
Now, DSQ is an international music sensation, and their fusion of contemporary, classical, and pop music has been embraced by audiences world-wide. Known for their eclectic renditions of anything from Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child of Mine to Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s Señorita, DSQ is Bach meets Bon Jovi. They have been placed on prominent Spotify playlists such as Pop Goes Classical and Sinfonía Hipster. With a strong international audience in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Mexico, DSQ has performed for Presidents Obama and Bush, at the College Football Playoffs, for the NBA and NFL organizations and sold-out concert venues like the House of Blues and symphony halls. They have played alongside Josh Groban, Chicago, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and have had their music featured by ESPN, A&E and The Wall Street Journal—which said, “this is not your grandmother’s string quartet”.
DSQ will perform at the Lubbock Arts Festival on Sunday, July 25, 2021, at 2PM in the Civic Center Theatre. Tickets are $15 from Select-A-Seat and come with complimentary entry to the Lubbock Arts Festival. To purchase, call (806) 700-2000. Doors will open one hour prior to the concert with general admission seating. Social distancing will be in effect.
Keep up with DSQ on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/dallasstringquartet/), YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/user/DallasQuartet), and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/DallasStringQuartet). To learn more visit www.dallasstringquartet.com.
Guest Blogger Jamison Driskill holds a Bachelor of Arts in theatre and dance from the University of Texas, a Master of Business Administration from Texas State University, and he is currently pursuing and Master of Fine Arts in arts administration in the School of Theatre and Dance at Texas Tech University (TTU). He was recently honored with the Award for Excellence in the Institute of Theatre Journalism and Advocacy at The Kennedy Center Region Six American College Theatre Festival, and he is a regular contributor to subTEXT, the TTU School of Theatre and Dance’s monthly newsletter. Jamison is also a professional actor, director, and teacher for stage, television, and film. Most notably, Jamison costarred in season three, episode two of NBC’s Friday Night Lights as a struggling freshman quarterback. Stage acting credits include Prince Edward, the Black Prince of Wales, in the American professional premiere of Shakespeare’s (debatably) Edward III at The Bank Street Theatre in New York City’s Greenwich Village; Timothy in TOSOS II’s production of Doric Wilson’s Street Theatre about the Stonewall Riots in 1969; and Florizel in The Winter’s Tale at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon, California. He directed a production of Aimee Gonzalez’s Larius Likler at the Hyde Park Theater in Austin, Texas, for the annual Frontera Fest in 2007 which was Recognized as “Best of the Fest.” Jamison also worked for several years as a private acting coach in Los Angeles specializing in audition preparation, helping actors land television roles/, commercials, and feature films. He has studied acting at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and spent a wonderful year working on scenes from Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot with the late Joseph Chaikin in his ongoing workshop in New York City.