Eko Nova: Tornado brought JACK Quartet and cellist Joshua Roman together to introduce Omaha audiences to an established, new-music championing ensemble. The group started their one-day residency at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, conducting a Business of Music Seminar for UNO students. After performing selections from the concert they would perform that evening, the ensemble discussed how they had all arrived at their individual positions. Although many of the musicians had started by attending conservatories or music schools and following more traditional routes, they had gradually narrowed down strengths, passions, and creative exploration to identify that the creation and performance of contemporary work was what they wanted to pursue. JACK had the additional challenge of forging a career as a successful quartet – figuring out how their individual strengths (and weaknesses) could cover the responsibilities of a successful ensemble, what they could each bring creatively, and how to create opportunities to perform and create.
During the afternoon, JACK and Joshua Roman held an open dress rehearsal at the performance venue, KANEKO, for students of the Omaha Conservatory of Music, Omaha Area Youth Orchestras, and local high schools. The relaxed atmosphere allowed children as young as toddlers to attend, able to watch the musicians work without worrying about disturbing fellow audience members. Although all audience members had good questions for the ensemble, it was incredible to watch these youngest audience members observe the rehearsal – they were absolutely enthralled, not just by the music, but by the techniques and methods that the musicians were using. Children who had brought toys along let them drop to the floor, forgetting that they were even in their hands, because they couldn’t look away. It was one of my favorite parts of the residency, because it reminded me that live music creates incredibly visceral reactions, and young children don’t have prejudices yet – they’re just interested in what they’re interested in. The icing on the cake was a question from a very young student who was enrolled in the Conservatory’s “Sprouts” program, when, after finishing Jefferson Friedman’s “Quintet”, asked the ensemble – “What’s the Rhythm?”
Finally, the ensemble performed for a crowd of 186 people at the KANEKO that evening. The music was very well received, especially Roman’s work “Tornado”; Roman is well known to Omaha classical music audiences, having performed with the Omaha Symphony several times, but they had never heard him in this chamber music capacity. JACK Quartet was totally new to Omaha audiences, and it was so heartening to hear the roar go up after each work. The musicians spoke to the audience between each piece on the program, building a connection with the music, which was all composed in the 21st century. We feel very fortunate to have had JACK Quartet and Joshua Roman here in Omaha, and are incredibly grateful for the support from New Music USA!