This Roadtrip Powered By: love, generosity & elbow grease

Before we received an invitation to compete at the Savvy Musician in Action conference, we thought we would be taking the month of May pretty much "off." We'd had a fun run of Brahms concerts in the spring, and were looking forward to our different summer projects and festivals. To tell the truth, we were feeling a bit weary, and needed time to recharge our batteries and reflect about where we wanted to go next. 

And then we got the phone call. And we got excited. Our work was being acknowledged by some hardworking, innovative, supportive people, and we had a chance to show our stuff to an interesting and influential audience. And suddenly there was no time for reflection at all -- only ACTION!  To the fabric store! 

To the dressing room! 

To the rehearsal room! 

Yup. The universe had other plans for our little trio. Instead of spending May lounging around sipping margaritas in anticipation of another glorious Chicago summer, we've been working very hard to breathe new life into our beloved old show, THREE-SIDED.

We leave on Sunday, and we are looking forward to the sights we see, people we meet, and lessons we learn on this adventure together. Our road trip would not have been possible without the generosity of the following amazing folks. We're gonna try to do you proud! A hearty, heart-filled THANK YOU to:

  • Carole Keller
  • Cindy Stokdyk
  • Shawn Kelly
  • Deirdre Harrison
  • Elise Blatchford
  • Amanda DeBoer Bartlett
  • John Glew
  • Brett Johnson and Dave McSweeney
  • Carolyn O'Brien
  • Kayleigh Butcher
  • Luke Gullickson 
  • Marilyn Biasiello
  • Samme Forbes Orwig
  • Suzan Morgan Ben-Poorat
  • Caroline Moyer
  • Jean Juarez 
  • Sam Scranton 
  • Patti Garvey
  • Jack Marquardt 
  • Kelly Thomas 
  • Clark Costen 
  • Sophia Arriaga 
  • Feeling generous? Our campaign is still open! 

A special thank-you goes out to my beloved partner, Susan, who is (as we speak) hand-sewing fifty beautiful program books to share with our South Carolina audience. Doing these music-theater hybrid shows always demands special attention to how the music LOOKS -- and nobody is better at this than Susan. 

And extra special hugs to our friend, mentor, and collaborator Deirdre Harrison, who created this piece with us and whose creativity and courage are (we hope) all over this show. She has poured countless hours into our theater practice over the past two years, and her mentorship has changed our ensemble forever. We'll try to bring back the gold for you, D! 

It takes a village and we're grateful for ours! Stay tuned to our social media channels for updates from the road!

Our 5th Birthday is coming up!

It's hard to believe, but it's been five years since Chicago Q Ensemble came into existence! Some five-year-olds celebrate by going to kindergarten. We're skipping that and heading straight for the good stuff by throwing a champagne birthday brunch on Michigan Avenue. 

Back in 2010, we were a clarinet quintet -- and an extremely DIY operation. So much so, in fact, that we actually purchased 60 folding chairs and carried them into our first concert venue ourselves. We were young. We were tough.

Ellen and Aimee, bottom left and center, with our three emeritus co-founders, Yevgeny, Liz, and Adrienne. Aimee has not gotten any taller in these five years. Ellen's hair has just gotten shorter. Yevgeny teaches at University of Trinidad & Tobago, Liz is a physical therapist, and Adrienne moved to Kentucky and spent time playing with the Nashville Symphony. We'd say they've done quite well for themselves.

Ellen and Aimee, bottom left and center, with our three emeritus co-founders, Yevgeny, Liz, and Adrienne. Aimee has not gotten any taller in these five years. Ellen's hair has just gotten shorter. Yevgeny teaches at University of Trinidad & Tobago, Liz is a physical therapist, and Adrienne moved to Kentucky and spent time playing with the Nashville Symphony. We'd say they've done quite well for themselves.

Thanks to the amazing support of our family, friends and the Chicago musical community, we've come a long way. In late 2011, we were joined by our superstar cellist Sara Sitzer.

We had an amazing few years with violinist emeritus Kate Carter, including one of our favorite collaborations ever: Fjords with Manual Cinema.


When Aimee was benched for fifteen months with a shoulder injury, we survived it the old-fashioned way: we found a man and started drinking.

Thanks for saving our butts that year, Dominic.

Thanks for saving our butts that year, Dominic.

In our current formation as a trio, we've found our creative stride. We've done some of the things we dreamed about five years ago.

Q with Tony Sarabia on The Morning Shift.

Q with Tony Sarabia on The Morning Shift.

Aimee onstage of the Pritzker Pavilion.

Aimee onstage of the Pritzker Pavilion.

A scene from our first show, THREE-SIDED.

A scene from our first show, THREE-SIDED.

A scene from our second show, NO EXIT.

A scene from our second show, NO EXIT.

We've played on WBEZ, in Millennium Park, and we've created two theater-musical shows with Deirdre Harrison. But in some ways, we're just getting started. Our tiny operation needs your support.

This birthday brunch is our first fundraising event ever ---  We hope you'll help us kick off the next five years right by reserving your ticket and celebrating with us. Every dollar we raise will help us continue presenting innovative work in 2015, including the premiere of a new performance piece on June 7, 2015.

We'll cook brunch for you and eat it with you. And then we'll share the premiere of an exclusive, friends-only musical-theatrical performance. We'll toast the last five years, and the next five. As an ensemble, we believe we have something special to offer, and we're grateful for your friendship and support.

See you on December 7!

Q and the American Music Project

Greetings, friends and fans!

After a quiet summer off, during which we each galavanted around the country and the world for various festivals and vacays, we're getting settled back into Chicago and getting geared up a for a new season....and we've got some big, big, BIG news to share! We're incredibly honored and thrilled to be performing the inaugural concert of the American Music Project! This new foundation, headed by Lawrence Johnson, is another hugely positive force in the national music community. It's aim is to encourage, facilitate and underwrite performances of existing American works and to commission substantial new music from American composers.

For its very first commission, AMP has selected our old friend, Amy Wurtz, to compose a new piano quintet for the inaugural concert. After premiering and recording her two string quartets a few years ago, we're so, so happy for her, and also absolutely delighted to be premiering the piece alongside her! Along with Amy's quintet, we'll also be performing Irving Fine's Fantasia for string trio and David Diamond's 2nd string quartet. The big concert will take place on October 5th at 3:00pm at Ganz Hall. Ticket info is all right here. Later this season, we'll be touring with this program around the country, so if you're reading this from afar, stay tuned!

At this point, you might be wondering... Piano Quintet? String Quartet? I thought you were a string trio, Q! 

Well, you're right! We are still a string trio. But we're pleased as punch to be sharing the stage with some good friends--the composer herself, Amy Wurtz, on piano and Sharon Chang on violin. Sharon's an incredible musician and we feel lucky to be working with her on this project!

The American Music Project and its inaugural concert have already been garnering quite a bit of press, so if you're interested in finding out more about this exciting undertaking, check out these recent articles.

New York Times

Wall Street Journal

Chicago Classical Review

Classical Voice North America

New Music Box

Classical Lite

Be sure to keep a close eye on Facebook and Twitter, where we'll be posting more articles and information about this project. And if you're not already signed up to receive our occasional newsletter where we make sure you stay up to date on our goings on, you can do so at the bottom of our home page.

Our TEDx talk is online!

We had such a blast playing, acting, and talk-giving at the TEDxRushU conference this spring. A brilliant team of Rush University students assembled an inspiring conference that we were proud to be part of. Our talk, "Classical music's empowerment problem," is a little medley of Scelsi, Sartre, and good old-fashioned powerpoint. Check it out right here!

It ain't over til the fat lady speaks

My parents love the opera.

Yep, my father sheepishly admitted to me one time that he used to cut class when he was in high school to go home and listen to opera records. (in case you thought I was nerdy…) They have a subscription to Opera Theater of St. Louis, and they often plan trips to Chicago solely around Lyric Opera productions. Even my mom loves the opera, despite the fact that she comes from a theater background and generally has a bone to pick with the singers’ unconvincing acting.

When I first explained to my husband Richard what Chicago Q Ensemble’s show, NO EXIT, was going to be like, his immediate reaction was, “Oh, so it’s basically like you’re putting on an opera.” “Nooo,” I countered defensively, “we’re not singing! Duhhh.” But then I thought about it a little more. What we’re doing really is the equivalent of what an opera singer does. We’re weaving the music of Mozart and Scelsi into a storyline that we will act out ourselves. This is something that, aside from vocalists, musicians typically never do. Usually we just never think to do it—after all, the great masterworks don’t needadditional elements to distract from their greatness, right?

But what if theater could serve as a uniquely engaging entry point into instrumental chamber music? When we started putting together this show, we knew that we wanted to play Scelsi and Mozart. When we thought about what these two incredibly different pieces had in common, we came up with this crazy connection: Scelsi spends an entire movement weaving around one note, never straying further than a couple of whole steps and always reverting back to that note. Mozart, in line with the classical forms of his time, spends a movement focusing on one key, never straying too far from the tonic and always returning to it at the end. In a crazy and completely different way, both of the Mozart and Scelsi selections we’ve chosen are doomed to stay in one place and can never escape, no matter how far their melodies stray.

Enter Sartre. Three characters stuck together for eternity in hell. No escape, only a life (or rather, death) full of power struggles, both literally and psychologically. In a weird way, it almost seems like it was meant to go with this music. And speaking of power struggles, shall I go ahead and point out the lovely metaphor between this situation and some professional chamber ensembles we all know? (ThinkA Late Quartet)

I suppose I shouldn’t give too much more away. You’ll all just have to come see for yourself. But we are so incredibly excited and proud to be presenting this piece of music and theater, and can’t wait to hear what you think of it. Guided by our director, Dierdre Harrison, this show ain’t gonna be over til you hear us play AND watch us speak and act.

Oh, and when you come to our show this Sunday, be sure to give my mom a wink. She is, after all, the one who mentioned No Exit to us when we called her to talk theater one day last February. She’s coming because, well, my parents are into opera.

Sunday, June 1st, 8:30pm
3111 N. Western Ave
$10 Tickets
Watch our NO EXIT trailer

The Interdisciplinary Feedback Loop

If you’ve been checking the Chicago Q Ensemble facebook page in the last week, you may have noticed some odd pictures. Ellen, standing on a giant box, violin under her chin, with crazy pink lights behind her. Aimee, playing while kneeling on the floor with her music stand pushed down as far as it will go. You’ve probably been thinking to yourself, “Those Q ladies have really gone off the deep end. Can’t they just have a normal rehearsal?” Well yes, we’ve been doing that too—matching bowstrokes, working with the metronome, yadda yadda yadda. But what we’re really excited about, the thing that has us sending emails back and forth with the subject line “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh”, the thing that has us free-writing about prayer, and the thing that has actually been shaping many of our musical decisions is our explorations into true interdisciplinary collaboration.

Farewell Letter

Dear friends and supporters of Chicago Q,

[I hope that your summer has been one of personal growth, as well as relaxation and recreation.]

I’m writing to share with you that I will be leaving the quartet and embarking on a journey of pursuing personal artistic endeavors. While I am excited to be setting out, at the same time, I am sad to depart.