Sunday evening, Abigail Walker stepped outside her East Hill home with her bassoon in hand and played music for passersby.
It was a way for her to connect with her neighbors while still maintaining a safe distance. It was a way to share her music when so many performances have been canceled. As each little group walked or biked past, she felt more connected to the world after two weeks of being self-quarantined with her husband, three boys and the family dog.
At first, it was just a trickling of people. One of her students drove by in a golf cart. And then more followed.
“I couldn’t stop smiling,” she said. “It’s something I could’ve never imagined. It’s a story I’ll share with my grandchildren.”
Wanting to find a balance between being neighborly and social distancing, Walker came up with the “Walk the Hill” pseudo-event, as she coined it, and encouraged her musically inclined neighbors of East Hill to step outside their homes and play from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday. On the East Hill Neighborhood Association Facebook page, she shared a map marked where all the musicians would be.
“I figured it would be a way to use music as a distraction,” said Walker. “And I’ve never had a front porch before moving here, so it was really awesome to just step outside and play.”
More than a dozen musicians joined Walker and took to their front porches or lawns to play. Instruments were varied among guitars — electric and acoustic — keyboards from local favorite John Ripley, a trombone — and of course a bassoon — to name a few. Walker doesn't take much credit for the idea, she was simply "striking a match."
Walker is a teacher at Creative Learning Academy and a bassoonist for Pensacola Symphony Orchestra. She said she missed performing as events have been canceled left and right, and she wanted to give that same outlet for other artists. But this wasn’t a gig. It was just a gift to the community.
“There were no tip cups,” she added.
And yes, groups were 10 people or fewer, maintaining the six-feet social distance. Still, Walker said she felt it brought the community together, even if it was just for an hour and a half.
“Walk the Hill,” got a lot of praise from other locals who shared their photos and video with Walker. One neighbor said the evening made her “proud to be a Pensacolian.”
“It was active, but still social distancing,” said Samantha McNamee who enjoyed the nonevent event with her wife, Meagan. “It was a unique experience — people were coming together but still respecting personal space. It really warmed my heart.”