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The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

Making Music: A Family Affair

Making Music: A Family Affair

Chris Gekker is an icon in the music world:  the trumpeter’s career has taken him from soloing at Carnegie Hall to recording with Sting.  Any musician would love to share the stage with him, and that is exactly what the WJ Symphonic Orchestra was lucky enough to do at a special performance in Baltimore last month.  That the orchestra includes senior Lianna Gekker and freshman Jason Gekker made the event a family affair.

WJ’s Symphonic Orchestra featured Gekker as soloist on “Blues and Variations: Travels for Trumpet and Orchestra” by David Amram for its All-Eastern Performance.  Gekker enjoyed the experience.

“It was a real thrill, as I’ve heard Mr. K conduct the orchestra a number of times,” he said. “I’m impressed with the tone quality, dynamics, and how well [the orchestra] play[s] together.”

Gekker is Professor of Trumpet at the University of Maryland School of Music and has vast experience in trumpet performance of all kinds. He has been featured as soloist throughout the world.

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Broad exposure to music is nothing new for the Gekker family, who include Suzanne Gekker, also a professional musician, Jason ,who plays bass in the orchestra, and Lianna, who plays clarinet in the orchestra and several instruments in the jazz band.

“Since I practically grew up backstage of concert halls, I was influenced by all of the performances he and my mom were a part of.  I was able to be around musicians practicing, warming up and performing,” said Lianna Gekker. “I also got to go backstage of Broadway pits, opera halls, summer music festivals like Aspen and Tanglewood.”

Watching and listening to her father has proved invaluable to Lianna as she tries to form her own musical career.

“He taught me how important hard work is, and to be calm under pressure, especially during performance situations,” she said.

Gekker’s music often keeps him away from home. In a given a week he has professional concerts at the Strathmore Music Center, a solo performance with the University of Maryland Community Band and two days of performing and recording in New York City. Although the hectic pace gets overwhelming at times, it’s the music that keeps him going.

“Often people say you must love music to pursue it professionally, but really everyone loves music, it’s part of being human,” he said. “If someone wants to be professional, they have to need it, on a level that’s beyond love. It’s probably not ‘normal.’”

In high school, in addition to his interest in music, Gekker was on the varsity basketball and track teams and liked subjects such as science and history. It was until college, while studying at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY that his trumpeting really took off. During his sophomore year, he started playing with the Rochester Philharmonic, and even toured with the Temptations. At the end of his senior year, he won an audition for a permanent job in a major symphony.

“I don’t think I ever decided ‘I’m going to be a professional musician’ – in fact, while a student, I often felt like it would probably be impossible,” said Gekker. “But I really love music, all kinds, and I just kept working as hard as I could, to try and keep learning. I still feel that way, and at this point I’ve almost been playing trumpet for 50 years.”

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About the Contributor
Katie Levingston
Katie Levingston, Online Editor in Chief
Although she seems quiet on the outside, 2010-2011 Online Editor-in-Chief Katie Levingston is bursting with energy on the inside. A former young Parisian in her second year on staff, Katie models her life after certain television shows, namely Gilmore Girls and Friends. She is unnaturally familiar with said sitcoms; she longs for the day when she can eat anything she wants and spend all her time at Central Perk in the Village. Nothing happens to her in real life, it all happens in Stars Hollow or in Monica’s apartment… okay? When she’s not practicing her speed-talking, she plays a mean clarinet in many different musical groups and spends inordinate amounts of time editing videos for the website. Among her most pressing decisions in life are what to order at a restaurant and which scarf to wear that day. She is insanely proud of her thick curly hair when it cooperates. She’s super excited to be a part of the up-and-coming wjpitch.com. Her doppelganger Anne Hathaway says, "Hi!"
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    Robert YiApr 28, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Katie Levingston, great job on this piece about my guy Jason Gekker and his family. I will show this to him. He will appreciate this greatly. I also liked your work on the pre-season wrestling video (I’m the asst coach). I’m a big fan of your work.

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