Anyone on Rosemary Street is likely to hear the rush of cars going by, the clang of doors while patrons enter and exit restaurants, and people chatting on the sidewalk. But this year, there's a new sound — music from a trombone wafting into the evening from the parking garage on the corner of Rosemary and Columbia streets.
The sound of the trombone belongs to UNC senior Christian Boletchek, who has taken to practicing in the parking garages most nights a week.
Boletchek, a bass trombone player who is majoring in music, said he began practicing in the parking garage because of the lack of options for other rehearsal spaces due to COVID-19 safety restrictions.
Boletchek said because of COVID-19 guidelines, the UNC Department of Music has been forced to restrict the number of hours each student is allowed to practice in the music buildings. He said the hour he was given in the practice rooms was not enough for the amount of time he wanted to practice each day.
So, he got creative.
“I just come out here because it's less disruptive than playing in my apartment and there’s nobody around,” Boletchek said.
Jay Harper, the media technician for the music department, said students who don’t have a good place to practice can be granted permission by their instructors and the chair of the music department to have an allotted time to use the practice rooms. Most of the rooms are in the basement of Hill Hall.
Harper said the practice rooms are tightly scheduled in order to give as many students as possible the opportunity to use them, as well as to allow at least one hour between use for the rooms to properly ventilate.
Harper added that in addition to using the music department facilities as practice spaces, students are able to use the larger rooms in Kenan Music Building to take their lessons if they lack access to proper technology.
“Technology-wise, in order to have it be equitable, there are some students, obviously, who don’t have the technology to be able to do remote lessons with their instructors,” Harper said.
Michael Kris, a professor of low brass and chamber music, has been working privately with Boletchek for over three years. He said while online classes have made it difficult for private lessons, he and Boletchek have been able to still have lessons through Zoom and occasional in-person meetings.
Boletchek has been playing the trombone for about 13 years, and was not ready to let the pandemic or restrictions keep him from doing what he loves. He hopes to continue his music career after his graduation from UNC.
Boletchek’s ultimate career goal is to become a music educator and later a conductor, which he was originally inspired to do by his band teacher from high school.
“All the credit should go to my high school band director, Brian Myers, who after a semester of his program, I was like 'OK, I want to do that,' and I never thought about doing anything else, at least up through high school and it's worked out and been good to me so far,” Boletchek said.
Kris said that while some of Boletchek’s goals have changed throughout his time as his teacher, he has remained an engaged student who is always eager to improve and expand his musical knowledge.
“He just sort of dives into something and when he sees something he wants to learn more about he keeps learning and he keeps opening up the next door and so on and so forth," Kris said.
Boletchek said his favorite part about music, and one that has been more difficult to achieve this year, is collaborating with other musicians. He said since trombone players usually do not have solo opportunities or featured spots in compositions, the collective sound that is created by the different instruments is what he loves most about playing.
“As (a) trombone player, we don’t get a lot of solo work, a lot of the things we do are more teamwork-based ... and when it's going well, there’s nothing better and nothing more fun than that,” Boletchek said.
Even though Boletchek has had to adapt in many ways this year, he hasn’t lost his love of playing and creating music — and it still brings him the same joy.
“And just the fact that music is a living, breathing art form, and that’s not meant to be a shot at visual art or anything that’s more static, but there’s some sort of energy that’s created when live music is being performed to an audience," Boletchek said. "And even though you might play the same piece again, it will never be the exact same way the next time.”
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