Q&A McQuade

What instruments do you play and why?

I started on violin and that’s because I really liked The Chicks. I really liked the violinist, I thought she was cool. When I was six, my mom was surprised when I asked her to play violin. She was like “Give it a year and let’s see if you still want to.” It was a year, and when I was seven, I started. My music teacher ended up starting a strings program after school and that’s how I got started. I mainly stuck to violin and once I got to college, I started playing piano. After college, I had to diversify a little bit for my teaching purposes and I taught ukulele, guitar, cello, violin, viola, and voice lessons. So, that’s six different styles of music teaching that I had to learn and I got a lot better at guitar because of having to teach it. That’s why I play so many instruments. So I can teach as many lessons as I could but also because I was interested. Guitar is really easy and portable and you can do sing-a-longs.Same thing with ukulele, although I’m not as good at ukulele. 


What inspired you to want to teach music to high schoolers?

I actually ended up losing my job at Black Tie Music studio because of the pandemic. I was already teaching students a lot and I was enjoying doing private lessons. My husband is also a music teacher and he’s been teaching in public schools for longer. So, I didn’t feel uncomfortable with the idea of doing just that and transitioning to teaching in public school. I felt like I would get to be the cool teacher. It’s been three years now, so I started in 2020. 


Do you have side jobs besides teaching? 


I still teach some private music lessons. I did keep some of my lessons from when my studio closed down. So, I’m still teaching mostly string lessons. I had a few guitar lessons but that’s been on and off. I mainly have violin and viola kids at this point. I also do a lot of gigging and performances with my band. We play weddings, dances, festivals and events. One of our more recent performances was actually the Hanukkah Festival. I did have an Etsy shop for a little while but I couldn’t do that anymore, I was too busy.


How does art help you express yourself? 

It makes me feel like I get to be a human being, as opposed to just working all the time. This is not a dig against people who don’t feel like they’re artistic in any way. I just can’t function without doing it. I’ve been doing it for so long. I just feel like I get to use my music like spells. I’m casting emotion or an effect on other people. It feels fun, it feels empowering. Also, I really like drawing and I’ve wanted to keep doing that more and get better at it. It’s been a little difficult over the past few years. I’ve been focusing more on music but that’s because of career choices. As far as expressing myself, I’ve always wanted to use art for more storytelling elements.I’m not a lyricist, I’m more of an emotive instrumentalist. If you can imagine making video game soundtracks, I would be 100% about that because I’m more about the mood than necessarily the words. As far as art, I have characters and I’m a huge nerd so I definitely have fan art. 


How long have you been in a band and who are your main musical inspirations? 

My main band, as of now, is Contraforce. Which is with my husband, his two best friends- they started it and then I started dating my husband. They were like “you’re actually a really cool musician. So you should totally join.” So, I joined. I also have a duo with just me and my husband called Tea & Whiskey. I’m the Tea, he’s the Whiskey. Those are my two main bands right now.  I would say with Tea & Whiskey, we’re mainly just normal folk. We have some jazz elements but we can pretty much do anything. We’ve performed as a Fleetwood Mac cover band for a Halloween show. For Contraforce, we could be described as having elements of psychedelic folk metal. Which is a weird combination but it comes from our various backgrounds. My husband and I are both fiddle players. So we do play a lot of Celtic and Klezmer music and we’re starting to learn some Beltic songs. I really want to explore some Norwegian fiddle music as well.  All the guys were super into metal to start with and that’s what they were sort of going for when they started which was funny considering they were playing folk dances. Then, I just added my ethereal vocals on top of that. We get a whole mish-mash of other elements mixed in there and we have a good time. I don’t know what bands we would say we’re similar to or specifically influenced by. I know we cover a lot of Ween songs but that’s because they’re really goofy. We’re big fans of Mike Patton and he’s a genre hopper. So, that’s like a similar parallel that we feel like. As far as the most prominent metal influence, I would say The Melvins. Vocalists that influenced me, specifically, are Enya and Loreena McKennitt- who’s a Celtic harpist from Canada. I listened to a lot of sad girl Celtic music growing up. Other vocalists that I really enjoy are Ella Fitzgerald, and the bands Wise Blood, Fleet Foxes, and Fleetwood Mac. 


What have been some of your favorite experiences while on tour? 

Prior to joining a band, I didn’t really get to travel as much with my family as a kid. The only big trips I got to do were in highschool. The first one was a tour of Ireland with my fiddle group Na Fidleiri. We got to be there for a week on tour. After that I got to stay an extra two weeks to be an au pair to a friend that I was also teaching fiddle to. It was awesome. I got to join some jam sessions, I got to travel around Ireland, I got to listen to music and play music. So, that really got the touring-band-bug in me. During college, when I was dating my husband, he and his band would do summer tours for different dances. We did a Northeast tour with them. I wasn’t in the band, I was just getting to tour with them because I also played fiddle music and contradance. While they were playing music on stage, I got to get a bunch of exercise and dance around and meet new people. The coolest experience, we were up in Lexington and Concord, which is the oldest contradance in the United States proper. We played there and afterwards we went to an apple farm in Vermont- which was really cool. The next morning, we woke up, got to see a bunch of cows, and ate pancakes with Vermont maple syrup. We then would go to a swimming spot, in the river, which had a rock cliff and you could jump into the pool. We got to swim for a couple of hours and hang out. It was a beautiful day, it was in the middle of summer, and I wasn’t afraid of ticks at the time. That felt like a really magical moment. On all of our tours we try to pair them with camping, and national parks, and outdoors stuff because being in a van for hours would be miserable otherwise.