The Importance of Not Quitting

Our CD release party on Sunday was a big moment for us. Amy Wurtz String Quartets is our debut album, we worked EXTREMELY hard on it, and it took a lot of ovarian fortitude to put it out there to the world. I was nervous that some mean reviewer would just tear it to pieces, because sometimes people do that. Nobody has done that. In fact, the response to the album has been great.

One of my biggest frustrations since co-founding Chicago Q in late 2009 has been the uphill battle to get recognition. It makes sense: in a competitive music scene like Chicago’s, there are tons of fantastic groups vying for critical attention (and audiences!). We worked so hard, but it often felt like we were toiling in obscurity.

We’ve also been through a major personnel change each year since we were founded. Again, this makes sense too: in our mid to late twenties, figuring out what we want to do with our careers, there’s bound to be some changes and forks in the road as you try to bring four very different musicians onto the same professional page.

As I looked around at the CD release party — full of friends, fans, and people we didn’t even know — I realized that this is starting to change. I saw a critic in the audience, taking notes and smiling. I remembered our excitement this February when we got our first professional review. I remembered our joy this month when we were covered in TimeOut for the first time. I don’t want to sound petty, like a couple of press mentions is the whole point of making music. It’s not. But after years of very hard work, the recognition is deeply encouraging. It makes me want to go on. It makes me want to do more.

Aimee, our violist, has often compared being in a quartet to standing together on one of those tilt-a-whirl things. We’re all holding hands, swaying this way and that way, trying to accommodate each other without losing the whole endeavor. So: the biggest thing we’ve achieved this year? We’re STILL ON THEDAMN TILT-A-WHIRL. We’re learning how to be a quartet — our way. We’re learning how to rehearse, prepare, promote, collaborate, and perform — our way. I think our biggest achievement is that we didn’t quit.

If I could give a single piece of advice to a new group, it would be: don’t quit. Don’t break up. Just keep doing it. And sometime, somewhere, someone will notice what you’re doing and start to take it a little more seriously. And that will be all the fuel you need for another awesome year of making music.