In the worst-case scenario, Marian Lee said, Quad-City audiences could have said they saw one of the last performances of a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin valued at $5 million.
Fortunately, though, the instrument that was stolen Jan. 27 from Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond is believed to have been found, Milwaukee police said Thursday. Three suspects have been arrested.
Almond was in the Quad-Cities during mid-September, performing on the Strad at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. He shared the stage with Lee, who is on the university's piano faculty and a friend since they were both music students at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City.
"I don't think any of us realize how lucky we were" to hear the violin a few months ago, she said Wednesday, a day before word came that the instrument had been recovered.
"When you think back, well, the sound of this violin may never be heard again. If they never recover it, that moment in time is lost forever," she said while the instrument was still missing. "Those of us who heard him play and heard that violin, we didn't realize at the time what a precious moment that was."
Lee said she knew it wasn't a random crime. Almond was struck with a taser after a performance at Wisconsin Lutheran College. He was one of the last people to leave the auditorium, and the thieves took neither his wallet nor his cellphone after he was attacked in the parking lot.
"This was very well-planned," she said.
Lee said she has been in touch with Almond, through text and Facebook messages, several times since the incident.
"Getting tasered sucked, and he's heartbroken," she said prior to the violin's recovery.
It's difficult to discern what someone might think they could do to benefit themselves with a $5 million instrument. It's not like one can step into a pawn shop carrying such an antique and expect to walk away with serious money.
"If the goal is to sell it, they'd probably have to keep it away for a while," Lee said Wednesday. "Right now, it's hot. Everybody's looking for it."
Almond's Stradivarius is one of about 600 of them made, and Lee isn't sure how many of them are left.
The fact that it was made by the most famous violin maker in history, not to mention its age, adds to the mystique.
"It's from the wood he used to the kind of specific dimensions of how it was built to the bridge to the varnish," Lee said. "There are all of these engineering details that go into his violins and make it what it is and have stood the test of time."
The audience that September night at St. Ambrose may not get to boast about being the last people to hear the nearly 300-year-old instrument, but they'd surely agree the music world is richer for still having it around.
The Dorkdom will continue on WXLP-FM (96.9), at least through the rest of the decade.
Townsquare Media has announced a contract extension with Greg Dwyer and Bill Michaels, the morning show hosts at 97X, through 2019.
Formerly owned by Cumulus Media, Townsquare purchased 97X and the four other stations based in the "Rock 'n' Roll Mansion" atop Davenport's Brady Street last fall.
"We’re very happy to have Bill and Greg on our team," Kurt Johnson, the senior vice president of programming for Townsquare, said in a news release. "To work with them on this legendary station is a true pleasure. They bring their A-game every day."
Next year will — brace yourselves — mark the 25th anniversary of Dwyer and Michaels on Quad-City radio. The two, both of whom grew up in Chicago suburbs and became co-workers and friends while at the student radio station at Illinois State University, moved here in 1990 after a short stint in Peoria.
Their first five years were spent at 97X, until they moved across town to Clear Channel's KCQQ-FM (106.5) in 1995. They moved back to 97X early in 2007, although Cumulus' plans for a syndicated network for the duo bottomed out after low ratings in the first additional market, Cedar Rapids. Broadcasts began on KRNA-FM (94.1) there early in the year, prompting a lawsuit from their former employer, who said it skirted their no-compete clause with Q106.5. They returned to 97X in July of '07.
On either station, they've been at or near the top of the ratings for Quad-City morning radio shows.
On the air, they've made the real-life evolution from single party guys to family men with teenage children.
Also, Townsquare reportedly plans to tweak the 97X music from its "Classic Hits" format to something more along the classic rock lines.