I knew Antarctica would be beautiful to see, but I never thought about how beautiful it would be to hear. I could listen to waves lapping against the ice and brash ice brushing up against itself, rolling and clinking on the water, forever.
Station is a musical place as well. We play music while we work in the lab, while we clean up after dinner, and sometimes we even sing in the dive locker while we put on our dry suits. But the best music you’ll hear on station is live.
The current Palmer band was born when 3 summer station workers began meeting on Tuesday nights to jam. Brian, or “Rex,” played guitar and sang, Jon was on bass guitar, and Kyle played the harmonica. They met in the dive locker which they dubbed the Dive Bar and they could only play songs in the key of D, because that was the only harmonica that Kyle had.
Rex, a research associate originally from the illustrious Akron, Ohio, has played the guitar for 20 years. He sings and writes his own songs and began playing the mandolin last year. He knew there would be a band this year when many of the summer employees met at the airport in Chile and several had guitars on their back.
Jon, from Boulder, Colorado, was one of those people carrying a guitar. Despite playing the saxophone for 14 years, he decided to bring a bass and learn to play in Antarctica. He also sings; he does a mean cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Atlantic City.
Kyle, from Thiensville, Wisconsin, played the clarinet in 5th grade and quit in the 5th grade. Despite having no musical background, he made the momentous decision to bring one harmonica in the key of D all the way to Palmer Station, Antarctica, and has been an integral part of the band ever since.
Jo, or “DoJo,” the station doctor from Malibu, joined the band soon after its inception. She had played drums a little in elementary school and she took over the (very small) drum set on station. It really is a tiny drum set, but she does a lot with it! She says that playing drums for the Palmer band has really inspired her to continue taking lessons back in California.
At this point, the station manager had a full set of harmonicas shipped from Chile and the band could expand into keys other than D. The opportunities were endless, and the band continued to grow.
Tennessee born and Missouri and NY state raised, Bob was originally a drummer, but learned the guitar in 2003 at McMurdo Station. He added not only another guitar, but vocals and several original songs. A Logistic Coordinator who has worked in Antarctica for 10 years, Bob says the people he has met on this continent have been a big influence on the music he listens to, plays, and writes.
Brian had been a percussionist since 6th grade. Working towards his PhD research affiliated with Rutgers University, he heard an announcement one day that there would be a Palmer jam session up in the earth science lab building, and he decided to go. A skilled marimbist, he actually switched to playing the harp in graduate school. He never expected to play rock and roll drums in an Antarctic band, and says it has been an amazing learning experience.
Dan, a scientist with the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) group, is the keyboard player. He has played the organ for about 5 years and piano for about 7. He also plays violin, harmonica, and guitar. Music is a passion of his, so when he heard there was a band on station, he just started jamming.
Paul, the Systems Administrator from southern Maine, has played the saxophone for most of his life, in high school jazz ensembles and lead alto in an all-state jazz combo. He has an amazing voice and musically directed an award winning a capella group, Spur of the Moment, during college (you may have seen them in 2000 on the CBS early morning show!). He had his tenor sax shipped to station and picked up a Soprano sax in Punta Arenas on the way.
Our very own Kate is also a saxophone player, and was drafted almost immediately to play Paul’s soprano sax and beef up the brass section. I was lucky enough to sing a song with the band on a recent open mic night. There is a video clip on our YouTube site (link to the right of this). See if you can find Kate….
Although the band goes by many names (“TerraJam,” “Tequila Rex and the New Years Eve All Stars,” “Changes Every Time”), one thing that remains constant is our amazement at the proportion of talented musicians that happen to be here. To have a band of 9 or 10 people out of the 45 people on station is pretty amazing, and hearing them blows me away. Maybe someday they will go on tour. Until then, enjoy the video.