As a fan of classical music and craft beer, Marc Zyla has found a perfect way to mix his passions into an intoxicating whole.
Principal horn and director of education and community engagement for the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, Zyla has been working with Stompbox Brewing in downtown Davenport to create a new brew — Zylaphone English Ale, to celebrate the December QCSO Masterworks program, “English Serenade.” At the Dec. 4-5 concerts, Zyla also will make his solo debut with the orchestra, playing Richard Strauss’s Horn Concerto No. 1.
“It’s a nice beer that will warm you up as we turn to the cold winter months,” he said this week of the strong English-style ale, made with winter flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg. Zyla has long been a fan of the Quad Cities craft breweries, particularly Wake in Rock Island and Stompbox, 210 E. River Drive, Davenport, near the QCSO’s Saturday night home, the Adler Theatre (136 E. 3rd St.).
“It has a really great outdoor space,” Zyla said of Stompbox, which opened in July 2020 next to Front Street Brewery. “Kitchen Brigade is doing really great stuff on the kitchen end of the building. The Stompbox guys are always super friendly. I was talking to their bar manager, Vic Sebastian, about doing some some cool cross-promotion.
“We think here at the QCSO, there is a social element to concerts — a nice part of our community, where you can hear a really great orchestra, and you have many choices where you can spend time before and after the concert. As some people recall, there were some times that wasn’t always the case.”
“It’s just such a part of my social life,” Zyla said of locally-owned craft breweries and bars, all promoted as part of the Q-C Ale Trail. “Having something named after the concert in which I solo is cool.”
A riff off “xylophone,” he said “Zylaphone” is a name people have called him since childhood, usually with a tone of scorn. Naming a new beer that is Zyla’s small, satisfying act of revenge, he said. He’s been a QCSO member since 2010.
Jamie Prickett, co-owner of Stompbox, appreciates the joint effort, which has been in the works a few months. It’s not a fundraiser for the QCSO.
“It’s more of a way to raise awareness of the Symphony. If you think of the demographic, people that normally go see the Symphony, by connecting with a local craft brewery, it’s potentially exposing what they do to a different crowd,” he said this week. “People that spend time drinking craft beer at a brewery may not be the same people you see at the Symphony.”
There is some musical tie-in with the brewery name, as Stompbox is a guitar effects pedal. Stompbox Brewing hasn’t yet hosted live music, and while the QCSO will unveil the beer at an invite-only “Afterglow” party following the Dec. 4 concert, no orchestra musicians will play live there.
“Obviously, Covid I think has put a bit of a damper on that kind of thing, but it’s something that’s on our radar,” Prickett said. “Having been business for less than year and a half, business has been pretty solid, with the exception of last winter, without vaccines. Anything we can do to raise awareness. We have a pretty regular crowd, but anything that we can do to promote our brand, get our name out there for people who don’t know about us, it’s definitely a win-win — to help raise awareness of the Symphony and hopefully expose us to people who don’t know we exist yet.”
Stompbox’s current beer menu features some plays on musical names —
- Power Groove (a pale ale)
- Pique Performance (sour, fruited beer)
- Murderhorn (Belgian strong golden ale)
The QCSO December program includes a sonic tour of the English countryside with Edward Elgar’s sonorous and pastoral Serenade for Strings. Another major British composer is represented with Benjamin Britten’s stirring and virtuosic Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings, with Karim Sulyman. This program closes with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s bold and exuberant “Linz” Symphony.
The English music has “a winter darkness kind of vibe to it,” Zyla said, adding that tone is shared in the second movement of the Strauss horn concerto. He’s planning to make a video to promote the concert, and he also lent his French horn performing skills alongside the Stompbox brewers recently.
“I played next to the barrel part of system, so the beer is going to be infused with the peanut buttery horn sound of Quad City Symphony,” Zyla joked. Like he did with 2018 “Brew Tunes” videos with local breweries (where they picked beers to match a piece on a concert), he loves cross-promoting the QCSO with QC businesses.
“We want to feature our downtown businesses, Quad-City businesses,” he said. “We have a really strong audience and following, who want to experience new things. They want to be in these gathering spaces we all know and love. It’s about getting our brand and the Stompbox brand in front of as many people as possible.
“We hope folks come to the Symphony concert but haven’t explored the riches of downtown, get exposed to the riches of a new place,” Zyla (who also plays electric bass in very non-classical venues) said. Since Stompbox isn’t licensed to sell away from its premises, the Zylaphone won’t be available to imbibe at the Adler concert.
This is not the only tasty treat the QCSO is making available to the public. Volunteers for Symphony and Quad City Symphony Youth Ensembles members are selling six-packs of Scratch Cupcakery Cupcakes to support QCSO Music Education Programs.
The prices range from $15-$20, and the cupcakes come in a variety of flavors, including vegan. The sale runs through Oct. 29 and 40% of every pack sold will directly support these valuable programs. For more information on QCSO programs, visit www.qcso.org.