Last week, Quad City Arts brought in Terrance Simien & The Mallet Playboys, one of Louisiana's top zydeco bands, for a residency as part of its Visiting Artist series. The band featured Simien on accordion and vocals, a rubboard or frottoir player, a guitarist, a keyboardist, a bassist, and a drummer.

I caught a Simien workshop in the Pleasant Valley High School auditorium before what appeared to be the entire student body. Terrance began his workshop by explaining that zydeco music was originated by French-speaking Creoles in Louisiana, and that the late Clifton Chenier was known as the father of zydeco.

Terrance asked if there were any shy people in the audience. Two students in the front row held up their hands. While the band started the first song, the rubboard player left the stage, grabbed the hands of the two "shy" students, and led them on to the stage. He gave the young girl a rubboard and the young man a rattler and put them to work performing the instruments. All during the song Terrance threw strings of Mardi Gras beads to the audience, causing screams of delight by the students. Terrance used both his hands and his feet to toss the beads. At the conclusion of the song, the two performing students gave up their instruments and returned to their seats.

The scenario was repeated for each song, with the rubboard player bringing up two new students. The audience screamed the loudest during the last song, when the rubboard player dragged two teachers up to the stage to perform. Many of the students began dancing in front of the stage and in the aisles.

Terrance Simien & The Mallet Playboys conducted a workshop at the Blackhawk Area Education Center - a school for children with disabilities - in East Moline on Friday. It was heartbreaking to see some of these children, many of whom were carefully being looked after by teachers at their sides. I counted 12 children from ages six to 13 sitting in wheelchairs. Simien conducted his workshop in a manner similar to the previous one, except that some of the children who were brought up to the stage to perform were unable to do so.

The band closed its residency at the Palmer College Lyceum Hall with a free 90-minute concert on Saturday. The hall had been prepared for dancing, with the front-row seats a good 30 feet from the stage. At least 40 people of all ages took advantage, starting with the first song and continuing right until the last.

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