Aware of how different life has become over the last six months as COVID-19 continues to wreak uncertainty, and economic and societal changes, professional musicians Laura Caviani and JC Sanford have turned to a familiar friend to bring cheer to the community and provide a temporary feeling of normalcy.
Caviani and Sanford, both of Northfield, have performed concerts twice a month on the driveway of her home, 925 Ivanhoe Drive. The events, publicized on Facebook and through email, have drawn a couple dozen listeners per concert. Some bring lawn chairs and sit while following mask and social distancing guidelines.
St. Olaf, Carleton ties
Sanford, a renowned trombone player, and Caviani, a pianist and award-winning composer, had discussed ways to play together to avoid the delayed format of a Zoom performance. The concerts began three months after the start of the pandemic with Caviani playing piano and Sanford on the trombone. Then, they started inviting Twin Cities-based musicians to play, including Chris Bates and Charlie Lincoln providing bass and Bates’ brother, JT, on the drums.
Sanford felt something unusual the first time they performed together.
“It was kind of surreal because neither one of us played music in three months near another human,” he said.
Fellow Northfield musicians David Hagedorn and Kevin Clements had been playing once a month on Hagedorn’s driveway before combining with the other group.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Caviani said.
Caviani has been a jazz pianist and director of jazz ensembles at Carleton College for 17 years. Sanford was recently named the lead instructor of jazz ensembles at St. Olaf College following Hagedorn’s retirement.
Their work’s overarching style is jazz and is based on instrumental renditions from the Great American Songbook. They play many pieces composed by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Miles Davis and Freddy Hubbard.
“I feel very blessed to have made music my whole life and to have made music with some amazing musicians,” Caviani said.
‘Music transcends life’
Caviani spoke highly of how open her neighbors have been to outdoor music. To Sanford, the concerts provide a sense of normalcy for people. The musicians hope to play as much as possible together before cold weather temporarily puts an end to their driveway performances.
“People are craving community, craving the idea of being together while we can, outside,” Caviani said.
“I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t make music during this time,” she added. “Music of any style can lift us up out of suffering. Music lifts us up. Music transcends life as we know it.”