By Kenneth Every, Jacksonville Symphony Principal Timpanist
I’m used to being asked, “What did you do over summer break?” but being asked, “What have you been up to since the quarantine began?” is definitely a new question and, hopefully, not one that we’ll all get used to being asked in the future.
Like many people, it took a while for reality and acceptance to set in, and once it did, I realized that I would definitely need a sense of routine and a positive mindset to successfully navigate these strange times.
I was determined not to squander the time that I was given, so I gave myself a few projects, including reroofing the garage, practicing the piano, staying in touch with friends, and generally trying to take my time and live in the moment.
I soon realized that practicing the piano wouldn’t be appreciated by my family, who were working at home and finishing up the semester online, so Hanon and Czerny would have to wait.
Since the hall was closed for about five weeks, I set about practicing on pads that were placed on an ironing board. Timpanists all over the world found themselves in the same situation and would post videos of themselves trying to play certain etudes as fast as possible. While this was entertaining for a while, I was greatly relieved to get back to the hall to play on my beloved timpani. In order to keep a sense of routine, I practice every day at the hall, which is slowly starting to return to normal.
When I first began writing this article, I should have been at the Grand Teton Music Festival playing Mahler’s Second Symphony. While I missed the music-making, my friends, and the mountains, I was happy to be at home this summer with my family, exploring our beautiful beaches, cooking Indian food with my wife, reading, and watching far too many seasons of Homeland.
Having extra time this summer also gave me the opportunity to do some volunteer work. The musicians were so grateful that the orchestra continued to support us during this time that we felt the need to give back. Many musicians volunteered to perform in livestream concerts and others have been working at Feeding Northeast Florida, where we help to sort and pack food for those in need in our community. Instead of performing concerts, we are performing community service.
We have enjoyed our shifts at Feeding Northeast Florida and are equally excited to have returned to Jacoby Symphony Hall to play for you! I have a feeling that these might be some of the most meaningful concerts of my career.