Musician Spotlight—Meet JoAnn McConnell, Principal Percussionist

I grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, where I joined band in fifth grade. I was one of 60 students trying out for percussion, and the band director told my mom I needed to select a second choice of instruments because “girls don't play percussion,” and I would most likely not make it in. I selected saxophone as my second choice, but said, “If I cant play percussion, I wasn’t playing anything.”

Needless to say, I made it, and I began taking private lessons. I finally impressed my junior high band director when I played my first snare solo at the seventh grade solo and ensemble contest. The judge wrote glowing remarks, and I received an excellent rating.

It was then that my band director started giving me better parts in band. I've told my parents they made a great investment when they bought me my first snare drum, as I still use it in concerts today.

I became a music educator to share my love of music with others. I earned my bachelor’s degree in music education from The University of Akron and my master’s degree in percussion performance from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Throughout my teaching career, I've taught band, marching band, choir, and general music for grades K through 12. Because of budget cuts in our education system, I have been laid off twice. After the last job loss, I retired from my teaching career.

My second career has been as a caregiver with Visiting Angels, a non-medical home-care service for seniors.

I perform as the principal percussionist in both the Ashland Symphony Orchestra and the Tuscarawas Philharmonic. With both groups, I was called in as a substitute, and I've been there ever since. I am grateful and excited to share such great music with these two amazing orchestras.

I must have more than 100 artists on shuffle play on my Pandora app, and I add artists all the time, so when I am asked if I have any favorite music, I have to say I pretty much like everything. I love to play racquetball and stay active, and I enjoy walking my dog, Lucy. Someday, I will do more traveling, especially to warmer climates.

The Carnivale concert with the Philharmonic will definitely stand out in my memory because steel pans are featured, and I am a member of PanHarmonic.

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