Dara Quinn may have given up the vagabond life of a musician in Seattle in 2002 to help her mom run the family restaurant, but she never gave up the music.
"It was a tough move because there is not much of a music scene here in this region," she said. "I laid low (helping run the restaurant) and let the universe take its course in finding me fantastic musicians to play with."
She eventually found "an amazing quartet" of musicians who jived with her own rock/jazz, fusion style and formed a new band she calls the Dara Quinn Project, featuring herself on keyboards. New bandmates are Andy Evens on sax, Justin Chapman on bass, and Charis Hurst-Foster on drums and vocals.
Quinn's mother, Ravadi Quinn, opened the Emerald of Siam 28 years ago in the Uptown Shopping Center in Richland. When Quinn's father became ill with Alzheimer's a few years ago, Ravadi decided to retire and take care of him, Quinn said.
Ravadi turned the restaurant over to her children, Dara, and her brother Billy, then moved back to her native Thailand.
"Mom was always the matriarch around here for her employees and extended family," Quinn said. "She returned to Thailand last July with my father to get him better and less expensive care."
She and her brother have diligently been bringing the restaurant into the 21st century by expanding the lounge to accommodate a new era of entertainment. She also assures that the restaurant's usual scrumptious Thai cuisine remains intact.
"We gave the Emerald a major face lift with a new (expanded) lounge and new late night hours on Wednesday through Saturday that will have a variety of music," she said. "We'll be featuring local and touring musical acts in the styles of blues, jazz, reggae, jamband, fusion, funk and more."
The musical docket for June includes Richland pianist Allen Johnson on June 7. Johnson's shows are packed with lively piano and singing that encompasses everything from Broadway tunes to jazz pieces.
Johnson describes his profession as a photographer first and a psychologist and musician the rest of the time. He, also with fellow psychologist Mike Pieracci, also heads the bi-monthly Reflection Cafe discussion groups.
"It would be nice to have lots of friendly faces in the audience," he added. He'll be playing from 5 to 7 p.m. There is no cover.
Quinn said the restaurant's music scene this summer also includes Yogoman Burning Band from Bellingham, Open Country Joy from Ellensburg, as well as local favorites like multi-instrumentalist Barry Bergstrom and guitarist Chuck Williams.
Opening for the Yogoman Burning Band will be sambAmore, which includes samba dancers.
She also plans to recruit musicians around the Northwest and in some cases introduce new types of music to Tri-Citians.
"Yogoman Burning Band and Open Country Joy are both important bands on the jamband scene, which is way underrepresented here in the Tri-Cities," Quinn said. "I have a lot of connections in the music industry from my history being a professional musician. I am currently courting fantastic musicians and bands from all over the Northwest."
Quinn added that the atmosphere at The Emerald will be casual and comfortable.
"My brother and I are very excited about all this," she said. "I have complained for years about the lack of a music scene and venues for good conversation and culture, somewhere without expectations on how you dress or if you can pick up on someone.
"I am happy to provide a place that is not a meat market, nor a fashion show for people to come together and enjoy quality life music. A place for sexy, intelligent people to co-mingle and listen to quality music that differs from the usual musical fare around here."
The grand reopening for the restaurant and lounge is May 25-26. Entertainment from 5 to 8 p.m. May 25 will feature Cindy McKay on 12-string guitar and vocals with Chuck Williams on guitar and Rob Burroughs on electric violin. Then from 9 p.m. to midnight, Dara Quinn will play with guitarist Seth Garello, bassist Justin Chapman and drummer Brian Paxton.
May 26's music lineup includes harpist Chelsea Spence and blues musicians Don Millard from 1 to 5 p.m. Then it will be Barry Bergstrom from 6 to 9 p.m. followed by Dubstep. There is usually no cover charge at the Emerald except when top name entertainment comes from out of town.
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org