ELMHURST – Jean Hatmaker remembers smashing Cheerios into the floor as a 3-year-old waiting for her sister’s music lessons to end and hers to begin.
“I don’t have a single memory of my life without a violin in it,” said her sister, Kate Hatmaker, 35, the oldest of the three sisters.
While she, Anne and their youngest sister, Jean, filled their childhood with novelty family performances, they have never played on stage together as adults.
This month, Kate and Jean are joining forces with the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra for a hometown performance.
“It feels like a huge hug from my hometown,” said Jean Hatmaker, 29, who plays the cello.
Jean just recently returned home after three years with the Western Piedmont Symphony in Hickory, N.C., where she played as a member of the Kontras Quartet as the quartet-in-residence. She also appeared on the “David Letterman Show” with Steve Martin and the Kruger Brothers last weekend.
“The first time I worked on [this piece] was in high school, and I was so in love with it,” Jean said aboutJohannes Brahms’ Concerto for Violin and Cello in A minor, which she and Kate will perform with the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra.
Always a fan of the piece, Jean pitched the idea to her older sister, preparing herself for rejection given Kate lives in San Diego, but Kate jumped on board. Jean then turned to Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra director Stephen Alltop who needed little convincing about the proposal.
“You’re not even aware of the passing of time when you’re playing a piece like that,” Kate said.
Unfortunately, Anne, 32, who also lives in California now, won’t be able to make the performance, but plans to arrive in Elmhurst the following day to see her sisters and parents.
Their mother, Debbie Hatmaker, directs choir at First United Methodist Church of Elmhurst in addition to playing piano at Elmhurst College and a handful of other musical gigs. Their father, Ted, used to teach at Elmhurst College, but is currently a music theory professor at Northern Illinois University. Even with all of the musical talent in their family, the Hatmaker sisters maintain they never planned to pursue music professionally.
Kate studied political science and French in college before deciding to study music at Carnegie Mellon University, and their middle sister, Anne Delgado, just recently changed career paths from teaching kindergarden to teaching music.
Their commitment to music is two-fold as they all play professionally, but also work as music educators. Following in the footsteps of her grandmother, Paulette Hatmaker, for whom Elmhurst College’s Hatmaker Lounge is named, and her parents, Jean accepted a faculty position at the local institution.
“When I’m teaching, I remember why I [play music],” Jean said.
Kate and classical flutist Demarre McGill, a Chicago South Side-native, founded a nonprofit chamber music organization devoted to expanding the classical music audience.
Art of Élan performs short concerts (never more than an hour) in spaces like art museums and warehouses instead of music halls.
“I think as a classical musician there’s always this fear that our audiences are going to die out or lose interest,” Kate said.
Jean hopes the upcoming performance with the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra produces a few more classical music fans but admits that isn’t the part she’s most looking forward to.
“There’s just going to be so much love in that room,” Jean said.
Last month, Kate visited Elmhurst and rehearsed the piece with her youngest sister for the first time, and agreed it felt natural to play together even after years. She explained how much she is looking forward to playing alongside her sister in the town where they grew up.
“It just feels that much more meaningful,” Kate said.