“Where Bach meets Bon Jovi” may seem like an odd fit, but for violist Ion Zanca and his fellow Dallas String Quartet musicians – and the millions who have enjoyed their performances – it strikes just the right note.
The ensemble arrives in Luling on Friday to kickstart a new season of shows at the Lafon Performing Arts Center, tickets now on sale for the 7:30 p.m. show.
Those who attend the concert can expect a unique experience. Dallas String Quartet (DSQ) use both traditional and electric strings, performing with the full accompaniment of drums and guitar. They are known for their eclectic renditions of anything from Guns N’ Roses “Sweet Child of Mine” to Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s “Señorita.” They blend a variety of classical, pop, rock, and electronic elements in their string arrangements.
The presentation of a string quartet, which brings to mind classical music, producing the sound of popular contemporary music makes quite the impression, and it’s brought the group fame since its inception in 2007. DSQ has performed for Presidents Obama and Bush, the College Football Playoffs, NBA, NFL organizations, and most recently performed at the wedding of Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton. They’ve sold out concert venues like the House of Blues and symphony halls and have played alongside Josh Groban, Chicago, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The group has garnered more than 600 million streams on Pandora, 6.2 million views on YouTube and 5.8 million listeners on Spotify.
All of this was born from what were once side gigs for a group of college students studying and playing music at Southern Methodist University. After some time of playing private events and building an audience, the team began experimenting and developed an electric set, including covers of rock and pop songs.
Did Zanca ever expect this kind of success?
“I wish I could say yes, but not really,” Zanca said with a laugh. “We didn’t know what to make of it. We were just these college kids and from that you go on to … I mean, I’m a big NBA fan, and getting the chance to play at halftime, I thought, ‘Wow, nothing could be better than this.’ It’s been an amazing journey.”
A native of Romania, Zanca moved to Dallas in 2003 and it was there – as the group’s name would suggest – DSQ was born. The idea to bring the custom electric set into their shows was an idea born from the fact that early on, the group realized people at larger events could not hear them sufficiently.
“We weren’t amplified or anything,” Zanca said. “And trying to find a solution, we started talking … asking, ‘How can we make this fun and interesting?’”
The transformation came in 2007. The quartet’s first cover song was The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony.”
“We did a live show and realized people really liked music they could recognize, but in a different style,” said Zanca. “All of a sudden, you hear “Sweet Child of Mine” coming from a string quarter and it’s like, ‘Wow, I recognize this, but at the same time I feel like I’m listening to classical music.”
That, as it turned out, was an attraction.
“We played in front of more than 1,000 people … we sold 300 CDs in an hour and a half,” he said. “And at that point, ‘Hey, maybe this is something we need to look at.’ Once we graduated, we realized we really enjoyed doing this, the crossover of classical and pop music. And it’s very rewarding to be able to bring people who wouldn’t normally listen to classical music to listen to this genre.”
The members are Zanca (viola), Melissa Priller (violin), Eleanor Dunbar (violin), Young Heo (bass), Anthony Plant (guitar) and Efren Guzman, Jr. (drums and percussion).
Zanca said his path to becoming a musician was set at a young age. His parents and grandparents alike were musicians.
“My whole life, I’ve been involved in music,” said Zanca. “It allows me to be true to who I am. I’ve had a lot of jobs … I’ve worked construction, been a limo driver, and it works for awhile but that feeling of ‘I’m not meant to be here’ was there, that anxiety. But doing what I love, it’s completely different. I don’t have to fight it.”
He sees the upcoming concert as a great outing for all age groups, especially for a family night. After shows, the quartet takes time to meet with the attendees and answer questions, particularly from youths – and perhaps future musicians.
It’s also something of a homecoming for Zanca, who attended LSU as a student about 20 years ago after moving to America. This is the first time he’s been able to return to the area, and he’s looking forward to it.
“To be honest, I’m very excited about it. I have a lot of friends there,” Zanca said. “When I moved there, coming from Europe, I didn’t understand the LSU culture, the tailgating, the gumbo and it took me by surprise. And now I’m so excited about returning. I’ve been telling the group about all of the food, everything that’s so great about (Louisiana), and I’m pumped to bring the group to try everything around there.”