Ambrosians Drive the Beat For Woodstock Tribute


To say St. Ambrose junior Alexandra "Alex" Axup, a talented bass guitarist, is an old soul would be redundant.

Bass players are born with old souls.

Is it any wonder, then, that Alex looked perfectly suited to tie-dye, flowered headbands and other hippy accouterments during a recent Quad Cities festival to honor the 50th anniversary of the famed Woodstock Music Festival?

Alex drove the beat for sets in which a wide array of local and considerably older musicians played the 1960s era music of Woodstock stalwarts Johnny Winter, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Santana.

The two-day tribute at Murphy Park at The Bend in East Moline, Illinois, featured hundreds of local musicians, but Alex and four other Ambrosians were prominently involved.

Maureen (Schulte) Carter '06, a singer and guitarist in her own band, The Velies, channeled Janis Joplin, a Woodstock standout to whom Carter's powerful vocals have often been compared.

Erin Moore '03, a former bandmate of Carter's and the head of media services in the SAU Library, sang backup vocals for a number of different performances. That included those played by her regular band, The Candymakers, and its keyboardist, Nick Vasquez '09.

William Campbell, PhD, a St. Ambrose professor of music, took a load off Fanny and led a set of music by The Band. Campbell also performed music by The Grateful Dead with his bandmates in Winterland, a tribute band that covered the Dead in a number of venues this past summer. 

For Alex Axup, playing the old-time rock and roll music favored by her father, Andrew Axup, PhD, a chemistry professor at St. Ambrose, was nothing new. She is part of the 70s and 80s cover band called Fair Warning.

The opportunity to play with talented older musicians wasn't a new experience, either. Starting in the seventh grade, Alex developed her bass guitar skills through the help of Rock Camp instruction at the River Music Experience (RME) in downtown Davenport, and she has been jamming there with musicians of all ages ever since.

The RME was the common denominator for many of the local musicians who came together for Sweatstock, a tribute conceived, organized and directed by Al Sweet and Bret Dale, lead vocalist and lead guitarist, respectively, for The Candymakers. The latter's day job is as music director for the RME.

Tribute to Woodstock

The two-day tribute earlier this month at Murphy Park at The Bend in East Moline, Illinois, featured hundreds of local musicians, but junior Alex Axup (on bass) and four other Ambrosians were prominently involved. (Also featured: Maureen (Schulte) Carter '04, Music Professor Bill Campbell, Erin Moore '03, and Nick Vasquez '09.

Alex said the preparation, practice and execution of the two days of remarkable music at Sweatstock was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for her.

"I can't believe how many people I met," she said. "Truly one of the most meaningful, exceptional and educational experiences I have ever had. We had to prep music on our own time and come into rehearsals ready to jam. Once we got on stage, it was time to rock and everyone brought their A-game."

There is a reason Alex was recruited to play bass in multiple sets. "She is really, really good," noted Campbell.

"Really good," seconded Moore.

Alex decided she would be a bass player at junior high jazz band concert featuring her older sister. "I couldn't stop watching the bass player," said Alex, who promptly asked her guitar teacher to switch her from lead to bass. "My guitar instructor, Kerry Tucker, was all for it. So I switched and I knew from that moment I was going to do big things, especially as a female bass player."

That assumed destiny hasn't prevented her from pursuing a college degree at St. Ambrose, with a double major in mathematics and secondary education. She also plays the euphonium in the SAU symphonic band, is an accompanist for STAMVOJA and has played bass in the pit for theatre productions.

"I'm working on adding a music minor and diving into music theory to further develop my knowledge," she said. "I want to know more about what I'm doing and learn all the things I can still do with my bass.

"I'm considering the idea of exploring the music industry scene after I graduate from Ambrose," she said, but added, "A lot can happen in two years, that's for sure."

On the other hand, what's two short years for an old soul like Alex?

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