Finding Freedom in Music: Bobby Hickman ’22 Adapts to Novel Experiences with Percussion

During a concert, percussionist Bobby Hickman ’22 switches between waving tubes in the air and shaking cylindrical instruments in order to play the whirly tube and thunder tube. According to Hickman, this experience of playing unorthodox instruments was one of his most memorable music memories at Andover. 


“[One of the instruments] looks like a long plastic flailing tube… When you spun it around, it made a high pitched sort of echo sound… Essentially, at some point, I had to climb up on the stage and swing around this thing for about two minutes… It was fun to handle a lot of weird instruments that [performance],” said Hickman. 


Such experiences have led Hickman to find freedom in his experimentation with different percussion instruments. Though starting learning music at a young age, Hickman did not get the chance to be part of a larger band, only broadening his sights upon matriculating to Andover in 2018. 


“Coming to Andover was different… I didn’t [get to] play individual drums, so it was a bit of a shock, but the conductors are all great, I love them all, and of course there’s the other percussionists who also came in with me that made it a little bit easier. They took some of the harder roles while I tried to figure out what it feels to play in a big band with multiple percussionists and whole other instrument sections,” said Hickman.


Andover not only changed Hickman’s experience with playing in larger groups, but also defined his interactions of being an engaged member of the music community. According to fellow percussionist Christopher Ahn ’22, Hickman’s growth since his first year indicates how well he has adapted since then. 


“Bobby is a team player who is always willing to take a supportive role in a piece to allow his fellow bandmates to shine…ever since we were both freshmen, Bobby has expanded his instrumental skillset to fit a variety of roles in the orchestra, uniquely expressing himself through [music]. [He] enjoys the feeling of rhythm and the sense of community which comes from playing in a band,”  said Ahn in an email to The Phillipian.


Hickman is currently a member of Symphony Orchestra, Tuesday and Thursday Concert Bands, and other smaller jazz groups. In addition to inspiring his involvement in music communities, Andover has allowed him to delve into different styles of music, fueling his growth as a musician. Specifically, Hickman cites his experimentation with the jazz group as a turning point in his music career. 


“A defining moment for me [in learning music] would probably be—Upper Spring—playing in a small jazz group and actually getting to perform with the drum set on stage, just because that was something I never did before. I didn’t play jazz before coming into Andover, and [it] was something I learned to play because of the instructors here that I was doing lessons with. That was an [important] moment for me, just because it was something I never actually got to show people that I could do,” said Hickman. 


Although he is actively involved with many groups on campus, Hickman does not wish to pursue music professionally. Instead, he hopes to continue casually practicing while experimenting with different instruments and songs. 


“I play music for myself and then I happen to be able to share that with other people… I want to actively share my music with other people. So going forward, I mean, I like having fun with my instruments. I like learning new things and I plan on keeping that up,” said Hickman.