North America’s only professional marimba quartet makes a stop in Cedar Rapids

Heartland Marimba Quartet

Eastern Iowa Arts Academy — Wednesday, O ct. 18 at 8 p.m.

The Heartland Marimba Quartet plays in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Oct. 18. — photo courtesy of the Heartland Marimba Quartet

The Heartland Marimba Quartet — the only professional marimba quartet in North America — will present a concert at the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy (1841 E Ave NE, Cedar Rapids) on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at 8 p.m. The concert is free, but a $15 donation is suggested.

Matthew Coley, who hails from Waterloo, is the founder and director of the quartet. In the run up to the concert, Coley has been teaching a percussion class at Kenwood Academy and the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy in Cedar Rapids. For the concert, he and his mates will be making a big noise in a small space — and that calls for some adjustments.

“We’ll be performing a concert of our repertoire we call our ‘4on2 rep,’” Coley explains. “This means four players on two marimbas. We typically try to perform concerts on four marimbas, but due to space limitations and availability of the instruments sometimes we have to downsize a bit for the gig. For this tour, we’re traveling with three five-octave instruments. In Cedar Rapids, we’ll be playing a collection of fun and upbeat rags, dances and familiar sounds by Scott Joplin, Billy Joel, Jonathan Ovalle, Fats Waller and Amy Beach.”

Suzanne Palmer, program director for the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy, sees working with the Heartland Marimba Quartet as a natural fit for the organization.

“We already have several outstanding Orff teachers,” she says. “This type of music instruction which uses mallet instruments is accessible to younger musicians and builds a good foundation for music education. It teaches the basics of note recognition and rhythm as well as playing in an ensemble. Many students are exposed to mallet instruments in their elementary education classes through the Cedar Rapids Community School District, and this class is an expansion of that learning.”

Palmer believes the concert offers much to the organization’s students and their parents — as well as to the organization.

“We hope students will be inspired by the accomplished musicians in the quartet and continue their music education and appreciation,” Palmer says. “Many of our students do not get the opportunity to attend live music performances and we hope the donation-based admission will allow a diverse audience to appreciate this live musical event. We also are interested in trying out these types of small performances in our venue. It has been on our wish list as a way to get parents and students together to come to the Music and Arts Studios.”

The Heartland Marimba Quartet travels on to Minnesota after their Cedar Rapids stop. — photo courtesy of the Heartland Marimba Quartet

Both Palmer and Coley say the two organizations hope to have a long and fruitful collaboration — one that Coley believes will help the ensemble accomplish its artistic goals.

“We’re focused on advancing the classical marimba art form throughout many kinds of communities, we only perform music by American composers and we look to the future for how we can continue to create meaningful opportunities for professionals, students and composers.”

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