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McNally Smith Student Claims Prestigious Grant

McNally Smith’s David Sutton has reason to smile. The third year string performance major has received one of the Cedar Cultural Center’s prestigious 416 Club Commissions for 2013. Last year’s recipients include McNally Smith’s own Adam Levy and Dessa as well as Aby Wolf and Holly Munoz. The 416 Club Commission is a $2,000 grant (via the Jerome Foundation) to support local musicians in their efforts to create and perform new music.

The fresh-faced 20-year-old has big plans for his newfound opportunity. “I’ve been working on an album with my band, Electric String Quartet, that’s coming out next month called The Vertical Horizon,” Sutton says. “It’s a conceptual album about Alzheimer’s; a musical interpretation of what it’s like to lose your memory.” Sutton’s grandmother has been afflicted with dementia, making the record’s subject matter extremely personal.

“I took the grant as an opportunity to expand on the record,” Sutton says. “The idea is to film and record a live DVD of us playing through the whole album. There will be a light show that changes with the music minute by minute so the audience can get totally immersed in the atmosphere. We are aiming for some sponsorships as well—maybe partner with the Alzheimer’s Association to release the DVD, with all proceeds going to them.”

Sutton, an accomplished violinist, straddles the line between classical and contemporary. He’s carved out a unique niche for himself utilizing his electric five-string violin and looping technology to mimic other instruments and weave intricate soundscapes. He’s coined his unique style “Cinematic Alternative.”

“It’s instrumental music, and there’s a clear backdrop with the loops to build a density,” Sutton explains. “But the melodies are all written like a pop or alternative song—they’re very clear and contrived with verses and choruses. If you know the songs well enough you can definitely sing along to them.”

Having already received a 2011 McNally Smith Premier Performance Scholarship, Sutton is no stranger to accolades. He met his fellow Electric String Quartet mates—Michael Schumacher (guitar), Corey Fitzgerald (drums) and Ryan Janssen (bass)—at McNally Smith, and Sutton credits the school for putting him in a position to succeed in blazing his own path in the music world.

“It’s been the mentality and the drive of this school that’s convinced me to go and learn this [style] on my own. [Violinist] Jean-Luc Ponty kind of used effects and [contemporary musician] Andrew Bird does the looping thing. But for me, I wanted to take it a step further and really make it it’s own thing. The beginning incarnation was the one-man orchestra where I could do all this stuff and sound just like an orchestra would, but with a contemporary vibe. Add the other guys, and we’re a four-person group that can sound like a 60-piece film orchestra.”

The Vertical Horizon will be available via iTunes on Tuesday, June 12. Electric String Quartet plays a FREE release show at Overcomer’s Victory Center in St. Paul that night to celebrate the record’s release, as well as a FREE performance at the Minneapolis Stone Arch Bridge Festival on Sunday, June 17. The 416 Club Commission performance at the Cedar Cultural Center will take place in 2013.

Read more about David Sutton and Electric String Quartet at: