The Rise of the iPadist

The iPad quintet Touch performs a multimedia extravaganza with dancers, actors, singers and poets. Audience encouraged to bring their iPhone, iPad and join in.




By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 25, 2013) – Musicians and music lovers everywhere take note. You’ve heard of cellists, violinists, oboists, guitarists, clarinetists. As these instruments recede into history, a new musical artist is emerging – the electronic musician, and in this case, the iPadist.


The world’s foremost iPadists – as far as we know – are members of the iPad quintet, Touch, who will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1, in the University of South Florida’s School of Music Concert Hall and provide an immersion in music’s present and future. 

David A. Williams and fellow School of Music faculty member Clint Randles, and three graduate students- Victor Ezquerra, Chris Morris, and Nick Stefanic – comprise Touch, for now an exclusively live-performance band.

And yes, the instruments listed above are fading away, according to Williams, the School of Music’s associate director. He makes a compelling case for why, and how important it is to be on the cutting edge of what is already taking root.

“The schools in Great Britain, Scandinavia and Australia are 20 years ahead of this country in the realm of electronic music,” said Williams who teaches instrumental music education and technology courses, including “Informal Learning in Music Education.”

“The iPad quintet and what we teach here reinforce USF’s standing ahead of any other university in the country,” Williams said.

Pointing to today’s top music videos on YouTube, he challenges listeners to find instruments many take for granted – like those listed above. Will you hear guitars? “Not as much as 10 years ago.” Saxophones? Probably not. Trumpets? Doubtful.”

Touch performs at USF Friday, Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m.

How many remember the lute?

“For a long period of time, the lute was the most popular instrument in all of Europe,” Williams said. “It’s not until these instruments and musical genres become passé, that academia typically embraces them. It took 50 years before we accepted jazz in schools. Lo0k at rock ‘n roll. We’re just beginning to take it seriously as an important art form.”

Changes in music are simply a case of evolution, Williams said.

“These instruments were replaced based on technological advances – like the harpsichord which replaced the lute and the electronic keyboard that is now replacing the piano – that and audience preferences.

“Every kid wanted to play the clarinet in the 1940s when Benny Goodman was a star, not so much anymore. The trumpet was popular into the 1970s. Trumpet players are rare now. It’s perfectly natural for things to come and go. It’s no one’s fault. This is just where we are in musical history. We’re noticing because things are moving so much faster now. There’s more music than ever and you can hear anything you want over the internet – terrific lute, clarinet and trumpet music.”

Williams’ iPad contains the sounds of many of these disappearing instruments. He and his fellow iPadists will employ and switch between multiple apps to deliver what he says will be an unforgettable show – using sight as well as sound.

“You don’t go to concert to simply hear music, you go to see your favorite musicians,” he said. “This concert will be as exciting as any rock concert with lights, fog machines, videos on multiple screens because when you’re going to a concert you expect it to be just as visual as aural.”

There will be a lot to see and experience when Touch takes the stage because a Touch concert is a multimedia and multi-disciplinary experience.


Collaborating with students and faculty from the College of The Arts’ Schools of Music, Theatre & Dance and Art & Art History, dancers, singers, actors and a painter will be working in concert, along with poets from the Department of English and the USF Sun Dolls. There’s even a large part for the audience to play because Williams believes in tearing down the fourth wall.

“Audience interaction between the musicians and artists is essential and adds to the musical experience,” he said. “We’re encouraging everyone who can to bring their iPhones and iPads – with any drum app – so they can join in.”

Live tweets from the audience will move the plot along in a retelling of “The Wizard of Oz.” Artist Chalice Mitchell will create a work of art on stage using colors that correspond with colors assigned to each of the quintets’ members. What she paints will direct what they play.

One instrument that most likely won’t go out of style – not yet anyway – is the human voice. Three singers, all music teachers, will join the iPad Quintet: USF alumnus Nate Strawbridge, Hillsborough County and Rosemary Collins, Safety Harbor Middle School and Justin Havard, Palm Harbor University High School, both choral directors.

A great believer in small-group, student-centered music education, Williams said, “When students make choices about the instruments and the types of music they want to play, they are much more engaged. What’s evolving in music today is technologically-driven and we are obligated to help the future music teachers we are educating learn all the different ways music can be produced. When you think about it, the oboe was once an advance in technology.”

Nonetheless, Williams values the talent and skill that goes into all instruments.

“We’re still retaining traditional methods and supporting students’ desire to master the instruments of their choice, we’re just combining them with the new as much as possible,” he said. “Our graduates will leave here far better prepared to teach children a broad range of instruments and still be fully involved with whatever twists and turns music makes – much of it we can hardly imagine.

“This is not a fad. It’s important for educators to recognize that what’s happening now is an important part of music culture that will be with us for some time. Either we evolve with it or we make ourselves irrelevant.” 

The audience can expect to hear covers of familiar music from Coldplay and Blake Shelton, Queen, and classical composer Pachelbel, as well as original music. The audience can also expect surprises and motivation to dance.

“Our job is to reach students where they are and enhance their ability to make music and help their future students to be more musical. They can only do that if they understand the musical language that will reach those kids they encounter in the classrooms of the future.”

Advance tickets are $8 for students and seniors, $12 for the general public. The day of the concert the prices are $10 and $15 respectively.

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.