Jeannette Hunker ’23 Keeps the Music Alive with Driveway Concert Series

Social distancing and shelter-at-home guidelines have affected every facet of life, from the shift to work-at-home to telemedicine doctor visits. But it’s in our communal rituals and celebrations where many people are feeling the greatest loss. “With the ban of concerts, graduation ceremonies, weddings, and other large social gatherings, most people feel a void in their lives,” says Jeannette Hunker ’23. That’s why, with support of a Laspa Center for Leadership COVID Community Action Grant, she started a home-based concert series performed by the Hunker/Freeman Trio, which is composed of herself, a pianist and vocalist, and her parents Bill Hunker and Dana Freeman, both professional musicians. These driveway concerts involve a mix of classical, popular, jazz, and musical theatre selections for piano, violin, voice, bassoon, guitar, clarinet, and other instruments.

Hunker has studied vocal music for 10 years and piano for seven, both of which she continues to study at Scripps. She has also participated in several campus musical productions. In January, she sang with the Beyoncé Mass, a womanist worship service dedicated to empowering Black women, performed at Scripps’ Garrison Theater this past January. She also performed in True Witness, a choral cantata put to the lyrics of poems, letters, and other documents written by African American women, performed at both Garrison Theater and Chaffey College.

Since then, the nature of live performance has changed—audience members in Hunker’s driveway must bring their own seating, and family units must sit at least six feet apart from each other, among other safety protocols—but according to Hunker, it’s imperative to keep the music alive. “In this terrifying and uncertain time, music offers community, beauty, and an emotional outlet that we can share. It is a special occasion that counters the mundanity of quarantine life,” she says.

Vicki Klopsch, executive director for the Laspa Center for Leadership, says that Hunker’s concert series is the type of inventive programming she envisioned when she and Laspa Center staff launched the Community Action grants. “This is a time like no other in which students can really consider what it means to activate. It inspires me to see students show up for their communities in this way,” Klopsch says.

“At a time like this, people need beauty in their lives. They need a way of coping and something to look forward to. They also need to bond with others when health experts tell them to physically stay apart,” says Hunker. “Music provides joy and relief amidst the dullness of life many have experienced. With our concerts, we seek to foster human connection while maintaining social distancing. Scripps has provided me not only the financial means of realizing a project like this, but the personal encouragement.”