Staples of your symphony: Jenny Bekker
Two years ago Jenny Bekker was working on her pharmacy residency 500 miles away in Lexington, Ky.
She was working 80-hour weeks at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, leaving her no time to see her husband Yuriy or 5-year-old cat Gustav. Her hectic schedule did not even allot her enough time to play her beloved instrument, the flute.
Born in Chesapeake, Va. Bekker (maiden name Glace) was raised in a musical family. Her father Dean plays trumpet in the Summerville Community Orchestra and her mother Mary is a lifelong piano player.
Bekker began playing piano when she was 5-years-old, learning to play strictly by ear. It was not until she was 11 that her mother gave her an old flute that she played when she was younger.
After moving to Summerville when she was 14, she played four years in the Summerville High School marching band, playing the flute her freshman year and the xylophone her sophomore, junior and senior years. In addition to marching band, she played concert flute throughout high school.
While at Summerville she was awarded the SHS Band Award for music and leadership and the James A. “Gus” Moody Award for Most Outstanding Musician. It was after attending the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts summer program at Furman University that she decided to double major in music in college.
She began touring colleges and after meeting University of North Carolina flute teacher Brooks deWetter-Smith, she made her decision.
“After meeting (deWetter-Smith), I decided not to visit any other colleges,” she said. “I knew that was where I wanted to go.”
During her time at UNC she was a four-year member of the wind ensemble and studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic in 2003.
“There were 24 UNC students and 24 Czech students (in the ensemble),” she said. “There were some differences obviously, but we all loved music and became good friends.”
Before graduating from Chapel Hill in 2004 with degrees in psychology and music, Bekker won: a National Merit Scholarship, Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship, Palmetto Fellow Scholarship, AFCEA Scholarship, Richard and Christopher Edward Adler Scholarship and a Charleston Symphony Orchestra League Scholarship.
After graduation Bekker moved back home to Summerville and worked as a systems analyst at Scientific Research Corporation in North Charleston.
From Sept. 2004 until Feb. 2005 she played with the Low Country Winds. Then in March she joined the Summerville Community Orchestra, joining her father.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Bekker about performing with her father. “He can take critique from me well and it’s cool to get to see him once a week at rehearsals.”
Summerville conductor Alex Agrest convinced Bekker through flattery.
“He was throwing compliments at me and promised me a solo in Peter and the Wolf,” Bekker laughed recanting their conversation. “I said okay and I’ve really loved working with Alex. You never have a dull moment at rehearsal when he’s around.”
Bekker then attended the Medical University of South Carolina and earned her pharmacy degree in May 2010, one week after getting married.
After completing her residency in Kentucky last August she began working as a clinical pharmacist at Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston. As she embarked on her pharmacy career, she found it difficult to return to her career with the orchestra.
“After two years of not playing, it was hard,” said Bekker. “But once you get back into it and practice a lot, it comes back to you.”
Almost two decades after being handed a flute by her mother, Bekker has nothing but love for the instrument that has defined her musical career.
“You have moments to shine as a woodwind,” she said. “You have beautiful, lyrical pieces like birds and nature, and that appeals to my personality.”