Toe-tapping jazz, funk and rock ‘n’ roll was not what a couple hundred teenagers expected to hear from a string quartet Friday.
Alyssa Lee, an eighth-grade L.J. Allmean Arts Academy student, expected her class would be listening to classical music on its field trip to see the Turtle Island Quartet at the Acadiana Center for the Arts.
“When I heard them I didn’t know it was strings, because of all the different types of techniques and sounds,” Alyssa, 13, said.
The quartet was made up of a cellist, violist and two violinists who fused classical and contemporary American music styles. It interpreted the sounds of other instruments — drums, bass guitar, guitar and piano — in its performance.
The Turtle Island Quartet is no stranger to Lafayette. The group, which has won two Grammy Awards, made its first appearance in the city at the 1988 Festival International de Louisiane.
“For a string quartet to win anything in the Grammys is great,” cellist Mark Summer said.
Quartet member David Balakrishnan described his violin and bow as beautiful Italian and French craftsmanship.
“Another way to look at this is it is just a hollow wooden box,” he said, looking at the violin then holding up the bow, “and this is just a stick.”
The quartet demonstrated classical music and launched into original arrangements of music by Bob Dylan, Charlie Parker and Jimmy Hendrix. Along the way they stopped to talk to students.
“People have been grooving out on these instruments for a very long time, and what we do is take those techniques and make them contemporary,” violist Jeremy Kittel said.
Students from Alleman, Broussard Middle and Lafayette High schools attended the performance. Some students called it “awesome.”
Coleen Hebert, a 17-year-old Lafayette High student, said the performance would keep her motivated as a violinist. Alleman sixth-grader Blair Williams was clearly enthusiastic.
“That’s the kind of music that I like,” the 12-year-old cellist said. “You can feel the groove.”
The performance for students was the first performance of the day for Turtle Island.
“We were really excited to bring in the kids,” Mary Morgan of Friends of Elmore, LLC, said. She is married to artist Elmore Morgan.
The quartet played a second concert presented by Friends of Elmore on Friday night. The concert benefited The Elmore Morgan, Jr. Visual Arts Endowment.
The Friends of Elmore was founded last year to fund raise for the endowment and increase its visibility, artist Herman Mhire said. Although the endowment has promoted visual arts, Mhire hoped the concert would increase interest. It might be the first of annual concerts.