Though it’s not nearly as old as most orchestras, the Naples Philharmonic at Artis—Naples is, without a doubt, an iconic presence in our town. (Who hasn’t seen The Nutcracker here during the holidays at least once?) We caught up with Jenni Groyon Hill, assistant principal bassoon, to find out what it’s really like behind the scenes of this Naples institution.
How long have you been a part of the Naples Philharmonic?
This is my 15th year. Prior to that, I was in the New World Symphony, a training orchestra, in Miami for a year. I also play in the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra in Chicago during the summer.
How much time do you spend practicing each week?
I spend a lot of time practicing, but honestly, I spend a ton of time making reeds, too. How much I practice depends on the week, but it’s definitely two to three hours a day.
What is the preparation like leading up to a performance?
Leading up to a performance, you actually have to taper off a little bit, like a runner getting ready for a race. As you get closer to the performance, you want to play less and less beginning a day or two in advance so that you’re fresher.
Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
I used to, but I really don’t anymore. When I first started playing professionally, I was so nervous for every single concert, so I was very strict about what I ate. I would have a bagel and a banana before every concert. I couldn’t have anything else.
What’s the vibe like backstage among Naples Philharmonic musicians?
It’s really nice. Especially in bigger orchestras, there are people who sit next to each other and haven’t spoken to each other for 20 years. It’s hard because you are sitting next to the same person all the time, day in, day out, for 15, 20, 25, 30 years. That mostly doesn’t happen here. Everyone is very nice and respectful and easy to work with. We all hang out with each other; that’s our circle of friends. I mean, who else are you going to hang out with on a Monday night?
What’s the age range of the musicians here?
It’s not a very old orchestra because it’s only been in existence since 1983, and there isn’t anyone who has been here the whole time. The age range is mostly 30s, 40s and 50s, but we just hired a 23-year-old, too. She’s our youngest.
People usually get in when they’re young. it’s hard to win a job when you’re older because staying in audition shape is very different than being in concert shape. Concert shape, you’re playing some difficult things, but auditions, you’re playing every hard thing that has ever been written for your instrument, all at once. So it’s this huge list of things you have to prepare, and then they’ll have you play five of them in your first round. And if you make it past the first round, then they’ll have you play another five or six in the next round, and it keeps going like that.
What has been your greatest achievement?
I think that’s going to be the same answer for any working musician: getting the job in the first place. When you go take an audition, usually a couple hundred people will send in resumes for the one job. So they kind of whittle it down a bit, but usually there are 50 to 100 people—sometimes more—at every audition, and it’s for one spot. And you get five minutes.
Where can we find you in Naples on the weekend?
Musician weekends are Sunday, Monday, and my husband and I have been trying to embrace the Florida climate and culture as much as we can by going to the beach—usually Barefoot Beach—and eating dinner at restaurants that have a patio on the water. We like The Bay House a lot; we’ll get a dirty martini and a plate of oysters and just hang out.
Your favorite local cocktail?
The Margarita de Diabolita at Masa—habanero-infused Blanco tequila, Licor 43, ginger, fresh lime, blood orange and pomegranate juice.