The final Thursdays at 12:20 Concert of the year—on May 11 in the atrium—will feature The Pookas, a clarinet quintet, which includes two Beckman employees: Sandy Ivy, an accountant with Business Affairs, and Marc Taylor, a senior systems engineer with Information Technology Services.
The musical group mimics Beckman’s interdisciplinary nature as the performers come from a variety of units across campus. Laura Bauer is a research specialist in agriculture in the Department of Animal Sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences. Bethany Fay is a Ph.D. student in atmospheric sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. And Lisa Schlein is a resident in pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Ivy is filling in for regular member Richard Engelbrecht-Wiggans, a professor emeritus of business administration.
Why an all-clarinet group?
"I enjoy making music that is somewhat unique," said Taylor, one of the original members of the group, who has worked at the Beckman Institute for almost 19 years. "Most people have not seen a group of clarinets perform outside of band or orchestra. And I like the sound."
He plays bass clarinet for The Pookas, which he has played since high school, when he started learning that and other woodwind instruments, including the bassoon. He has been interested in music since his youth, starting piano lessons around seventh grade.
He also performs with the Parkland Community College Concert Band and the U of I Summer Band.
Ivy, who has worked at the Beckman Institute for one year, plays third soprano clarinet and also contra-alto clarinet for the group, but says she can play on all the woodwind instruments.
"My mom played piano and organ so I don’t remember a time when music was not played in our house," she said. "I didn’t start playing organ until I was in third grade because I had to wait until my legs could reach the pedals."
In fourth grade, she started playing flute in band and has played in bands ever since. She even met her husband at a college jazz band rehearsal when he hit her in the back with his trombone slide. They married a few years later; they have two adult children.
"I enjoy playing with (this group) because of the variety of sounds within the clarinet family," she said. She also plays with the Danville Municipal Band, Doc Ashton and the Root Canals Big Band, and pit orchestras for local theater productions.
The Pookas ensemble is named after pooka named Harvey, the six-foot-plus tall rabbit in the 1950 movie "Harvey," in honor of Harvey Hermann, a local clarinet teacher, arranger, and conductor, who founded the original group in 2013.
The group plays light music written specifically for the clarinet, as well as classical music arrangements, and popular tunes. They perform an average of 10 performances each semester, generally at nursing homes and other care facilities, although they also have played at a wedding and recently performed at the Illini Union Courtyard Café.
The Thursdays at 12:20 Concerts are free and open to the public and will resume in September. The Beckman Café will be open during the concert.