For nearly two years, COVID-19 has halted live concerts from Wellesley’s performing arts department. Now, pandemic restrictions have begun to ease, and as in-person performances start to resume, one musician finds herself reinvigorated being back on stage.

“It was simultaneously freeing and totally nerve wracking,” said Evelyn Kohnen ’25, a percussionist in the high school.

Kohnen was playing for the middle school band when its live performances were shut down by COVID-19. The resumption of in-person performances this year provided her, as well as many other student musicians, with a chance to finally play in live shows after a prolonged hiatus. 

For her, the musical journey originally began when she was enrolled in piano and violin lessons by her parents— but it only became serious when she decided to take on drumming in fifth grade. Now, she’s playing percussion for the high school concert and jazz bands.

Just this school year, she has been involved in multiple district concerts. In a conversation with her, she opened up about being back in the musical field, what being a musician means to her, and how she took advantage of opportunities to further develop her interests. These are edited excerpts from our exchange.

Live concerts in the district are resuming as COVID-19 protocols ease this school year. What was being back on stage and performing in front of a real audience like?

I performed for the 1:00 Jazz Band in my first concert back. That performance was amazing. There were only four of us, so it was a very tightly-knit space. I felt very comfortable during the performance and loved it. On the other hand, the concert band performance was terrifying. I love the band, but I get terrible stage fright when performing with them, which I think my two-year hiatus from concerts contributed to. I hope that the feeling will start to fade with time.

What’s the greatest merit of all those performances, and being in band? Was it a general aspect unique to your experience, or a specific moment that influenced you?

I would consider the community around performing arts to be the greatest merit. I am far happier just to be a part of a band, rather than be in the spotlight. Seventh grade band was so cherishable because of the friends I made during it. I loved talking with them about our new pieces, or joking about how badly we played our parts, so it was heartbreaking this year when I decided not to try out for the wind ensemble, because almost all of my friends in band made it in.

You’ve already performed in multiple concerts this year. When you first began to take lessons, did you ever imagine that you would be in the place you’re in now?

I’m not sure what I imagined as a younger percussionist: as a kid, I joined the band because my mom forced me to, but definitely ended up staying because of the friends I made and my growing love for music. Now, I think my younger self would admire my passion. I didn’t ever think that I would actually play past middle school, but now I am even contemplating playing my instrument as a side gig in college.

The community that surrounds you as a musician seems to be something you hold great value in. Did percussion and band happen to connect you with other peers, and help you pursue other goals?

Percussion definitely connected me to many other musicians and their own endeavors. Just recently, I have begun organizing rehearsals for my own indie rock band, and I would’ve never been able to form it without a few of my good friends who just happen to be amazing musicians. In the time that we played together, it was some of the most fun I’ve had in a band. Since the formation of it, I’ve been inspired to spend more time playing the ukulele, and am also practicing the piano more.

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