On Thursday, Dec. 29, we published the lists of our most read stories on OurQuadCities.com in 2022, and these were the top arts & culture stories (which I wrote all) —
- Beck and Woods planning new movie theater in downtown Davenport
- Beloved QC musician and disc jockey died last weekend
- Clinton to host filming of new ‘Field of Dreams’ TV series
- 20-year-old QC dancer is in the finals on national FOX series
- Chicago founder and songwriting whiz loving life after 55 years with band
These were all memorable pieces for me, but only a few overlapped with what I ended up choosing as a Top Ten list of my favorites for the year, which are listed below. I am perennially frustrated by the fact that the top-read stories on our website are usually always crime or accident related. That is the nature of the business.
Even two of my favorite features in 2022 each couldn’t crack the top 50 of my own stories for their respective month. So why a story becomes popular (or goes “viral”) remains mostly a mystery to me. Without further ado, here is my top 10, in chronological order, with a few honorable mentions.
Writing about a world premiere is always special, but the creation of “Karkinos” long held a place in my heart since I had followed it since 2019, then working for the newspaper. Composer Jacob Bancks (who teaches at Augustana College) is super prolific, passionate, articulate and one of the nicest, most unpretentious people I know. Partnering with the invaluable nonprofit Living Proof Exhibit and the QC Symphony, the long-delayed opera profoundly reflects the strength, courage and resilience of cancer survivors.
Imagine doing the same job for 55 years and still loving it at age 75? For the tireless, friendly Jimmy Pankow, that job is a literal dream — as the energetic trombonist for the band Chicago, and writer of some of its biggest hits (“Make Me Smile,” Colour My World,” “Just You ‘n’ Me,” “Old Days,” “Alive Again”). It was a dream to have an hour-long talk with him and he genuinely appreciated my questions as a fellow musician who grew up loving the group.
- Get sneak peek of new $50M Iowa art museum, set to open Aug. 26 (April 14, 2022)
Talk about a project years in the making — the University of Iowa, its students, alumni, staff, and supporters have all been hoping, dreaming and working toward a new art museum since the old one was flooded out in 2008. The QC played a crucial in the resurrection of art on the Iowa City campus since Davenport’s Figge Art Museum stored most of the UI collection (displaying some) in the intervening years, and Russell Construction built the new Stanley Museum of Art. Local 4 was lucky enough to be the only QC media to get a first look that glorious April day.
- Bill Medley glad to be back on road, in “righteous” concerts (April 18, 2022)
What a thrill to speak with one of the most iconic voices in pop music, the 81-year-old blue-eyed soul man, Bill Medley. He’s had a music career as long as I’ve been alive and music helps keep him alive, with dedication and purpose. I don’t think I could name another singer who gets to start the first second of a hit record with just his voice (the great “Dirty Dancing” single, “I’ve Had the Time of My Life”). Medley not only survived COVID in 2020, but throat cancer and the death of his wife. You could tell how much he appreciates having his life back.
- Augie prof sings the praises of a busy musical life (April 25, 2022)
I am always impressed and a tad exhausted after I talk to Shelley Cooper, an associate professor of theater at Augustana and a true multi-hyphenate. She’s a jaw-droppingly smart, talented, compassionate singer, dancer, actress, choreographer, director, teacher and writer. She’s also got to be an expert juggler, since she constantly seems to have many projects going all at once. This profile attempted to summarize what and why she does what she does, and I’m so glad she does it in the QC.
Tom and Shelley Walljasper have to be one of the preeminent power theater couples in the area. But unlike many big city show-biz folk, they appear to have very little ego — despite their very long, amazing list of credits (Tom alone has acted in 100 Circa ’21 shows), they are the sweetest, most down-to-earth, generous people. This story was timed to the return of Tom to the Rock Island dinner theater stage after over two years, which is a major challenge when you make your living in theater. Tom and Shelley have delighted audiences for decades — it’s easy to see why, since they are delightful themselves.
- The real Kings of Queens: Searching for Bix and Louis (Sept. 20, 2022)
This feature was deeply meaningful for me on a personal and professional level, as is obvious when you read it. In early September, my wife and I took a day on vacation to venture into Queens, N.Y., which was not only the longtime home of my maternal grandparents, but many jazz greats over the years. That includes the legendary horn pioneers Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong, and my story delves into why they were great, how their lives intersected, and impacted the QC in profound ways. Be sure to check out the brief video in front of Bix’s apartment building.
- Beck/Woods offer inspiration for new movie theater (Oct. 9. 2022)
Two of the best-known QC exports are filmmakers (and Bettendorf natives) Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. Two of the nicest, most talented guys on the planet, the 38-year-olds co-wrote the 2018 horror hit, “A Quiet Place,” directed by and co-starring John Krasinksi. On a $17-million budget, it brought in $340.9 million at the box office. This 2022 story was one of the year’s most exciting developments, on the pair planning to turn an old downtown Davenport building into a stylish indie movie house, with rooftop bar by June 2023. It’s sure to be another boffo cinematic smash.
- EXCLUSIVE: QC country music star Margo Price reveals soul, dreams, wisdom in new memoir (Oct. 24, 2022)
I’ve long been a fan of the outspoken, fiercely independent Aledo native Margo Price. So this piece has to be just about my top favorite for the year, not only because I was the only local media to cover her October book signing in Iowa City, but I arranged it all myself, took photos and video, and put together my first Local 4 on-air news segment (apart from Living Local). Her memoir, “Maybe We’ll Make It,” is just like the 39-year-old country artist — brutally honest, revealing, thoughtful, inspiring and a triumph of dreams and persistence.
- Ballet QC dancers bring ‘Nutcracker’ magic to QC schools (Dec. 7, 2022)
- REVIEW: Ballet QC exceeds expectations in exceptional new ‘Nutcracker’ (Dec. 9, 2022)
The magic of two of my favorite performing arts ensembles in the area (Quad City Symphony Orchestra and Ballet Quad Cities) come not only when they share their first-class, transcendent talents on stage in formal perfomances. It’s because the passionate, down-to-earth artists consistently share their gifts with students in schools across the region, demystifying their sometimes stuffy art form — which can seem otherworldly and out of reach. This was blissfully the case in early December, when three enthusiastic BQC dancers pulled the curtain behind “The Nutcracker” for 3rd-graders at a Rock Island school. When they all danced together to Tchaikovsky’s thrilling music, that’s unpretentious, pure art. Then getting to see (and review) the fully realized ballet with 2,000 kids at the Adler was pure heaven.
In a very busy, memorable year in QC arts and culture (the theater scene alone is a cornucopia of satisfying goodies), here are a few more standouts:
- 20-year-old QC dancer is in the finals on national FOX series (July 26, 2022)
I can’t think of anything of significance I accomplished at age 20, but Davenport’s Essence Wilmington became a national TV star over the summer, by making the finals of the FOX reality dance competition, “So You Think You Can Dance.” I was honored to be the first local media to interview her in person, as I got to host an on-air interview myself, and help promote our sister station, FOX 18! It’s also a giddy highlight to talk with a young performer who’s achieved their dream and knows how lucky she is.
I’m one of countless Quad Citizens who’ve spent unforgettable nights at The MARK in downtown Moline (the original name that’s stuck through corporate name changes). For the first time in over three years, I got to return to the arena floor in August for another momentous event — announcing another moniker move, to Vibrant Arena at The MARK. This one was all the more special since a hometown business (Vibrant Credit Union) is spending $4 million to re-brand the 29-year-old landmark. It’s always fun to be at a positive breaking news event, and both the top-notch venue and company have made their mark on the QC for years to come.
- Painfully relevant, double-cast ‘Cabaret’ opens at Augie (Nov. 16, 2022)
- REVIEW: ‘Cabaret’ a dark, beautiful, teachable moment (Nov. 19, 2022)
I am a huge musical theater fan, and Kander & Ebb’s iconic “Cabaret” (premiered in 1966) is one of my many Broadway favorites. I had the immense pleasure of playing for the on-stage band in the wonderful spring 2018 production at St. Ambrose, directed by Cory Johnson. The QC’s other private liberal-arts college, Augustana, presented their take on the still bitingly relevant show last month, directed and choreographed by Shelley Cooper. Including double casting the lead roles, writing about and reviewing the electrifying, emotional show was an amazing, educational experience. Though “Cabaret”‘s Kit Kat Club (set in 1930s Berlin), implores to forget our troubles, this dedicated, intense cast revealed how we must confront them head on, and how they’re not just history, but haunt us today.
To track QC arts and culture, bookmark this section of our website. Happy New Year!!!