Quick wits and even quicker fingers: The Minneapolis Guitar Quartet

Eric Gorman

Perfectly manicured fingernails and sharp threads — as in clothes — weren’t the only things the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet (MGQ) was packing as they walked onstage on Saturday, Jan. 26, at the McKinney Theatre. MGQ has six strings a piece and the capacity to use them.


Frontman Joseph Hagedorn (A current member, and one of the founders of the band back in 1986) was joined onstage by Ben Gateno (A former student of Hagedorn’s), Wade Oden and Maja RadovanlijaBefore the band graced the stage there were only four chairs and four footrests, once the quartet was in view there was poise, grace, sophistication and a laugh or two.


“They say that if a guitarist lives to be 80 years old, they have spent 60 years tuning,” their instruments, Oden said as the rest of the quartet politely waited for him to be ready. This wasn’t the only time that the intimate crowd chuckled gayly.


Going from A Scottish Fantasy — Written for MGQ by David Crittenden — to Ghetto Strings — written for MGQ by Daniel Bernard Roumain, the musicians masterfully plucked, strummed, and drummed their guitars in delight. The men bobbed their heads as they shut their eyes, and smiled while their passion fled their fingers to fill  the ears of audience members.


At one point Gateno, before playing Concertino — a piece originally composed by Igor Stravinsky, asked to recognize the birthday of someone who was uniquely inspirational to him, Eddie Van Halen.


The spectators, again, laughed, and Gateno continued, “I think that it’s only fitting, since we’re in a school, that I play a few bars from Hot for Teacher,” one of Van Halen’s famous hits. He did indeed, and was received fantastically.


Oden modestly commented afterward that it was his mother’s birthday. He called her shortly after the performance.


Maja Radovanlija on the other hand tapped her foot to the tempo as she held her own among the three men. “Maja is the first woman in the group” since its founding, Hagedorn commented, after we discussed how she was outnumbered.


“It feels good,” Radovanlija said, to be a woman in a band predominated by men.


She held her own, and then some. The newest member of MGQ, Radovanlija joined this season, starting in 2012. She said that it’s been challenging, “especially the memorizing part. It’s so different than memorizing solo, because you have to learn… what everybody’s playing. I think that was really, really challenging, but it made me a better musician.”


For students at Saddleback who are forging potential careers as musicians, the quartet had some sound advice.


“Become a monk of whatever instrument that you are using. Yeah. Just dedicate yourself to it. At least for a few years, especially. If you really put in good dedicated practice early and it’s efficient, that can go a long way towards affecting your career later.” -Oden


“Eat and play, and that’s it.” -Radovanlija


“I think a student musician should practice as much as they can stand to and then when they’re not practicing they should listen to music.”


“Keep very open ears, and listen to everything you can, and gain something from everything you listen to. Then, as far as making a career out of music, just be nice to everyone. I think that goes a long way.” -Gateno


For more information about MGQ and their repertoire, visit their website at: http://minneapolisguitarquartet.com/. There you can learn more about their influences, education, and history.


Here is the link to Hot for Teacher, by Van Halen. Just for kicks. Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4GZFbCqx18