The two weeks of quarantine on the St. Olaf campus posed a unique question for any Oles involved in music: Where can I practice?
Devonte Merrick ’23, a trumpet player and member of both the St. Olaf Band and one of the jazz ensembles, decided that his best option was to head outside. Merrick gained lots of attention when he started getting flirts on the “St. Olaf Flirts” Facebook page.
I talked with Merrick over Zoom to ask him about his music and his newfound fame.
Where have you practiced during the quarantine period?
I started by practicing in my room similarly to a lot of people, but since I play the trumpet I have this thing called a mute which dampens my sound just a little bit. I want to be conscious of my pod members and stuff. But I had an audition that was coming up that required me to play pretty high and loud on the trumpet so that’s when I started practicing outside … I just walk to the back of Ytterboe, point my horn towards the forest and let it rip.
What sort of reception have you gotten from classmates, friends and strangers?
I’d say for the most part it’s been mainly positive, which actually is really surprising to me. But there was one instance where I was recording one video for one of the meme pages and somebody yelled out their window like, “Hey, practice inside or something!” That made me just a little self-conscious, but for the most part it’s been, like, positive reception.
How do you feel about your newfound fame via the flirts?
It’s a little weird to be honest, but you know, it’s a little humbling as well. It’s interesting though, because when I’m going to practice, I’m not trying to intentionally play stuff that makes me sound good. The big cliché thing with us music majors is that we sound bad in the practice room so we sound good when it comes to performance. So, to have to be cognizant that people are actively listening to me now that I’m out practicing, it makes me feel just a little bit weird because I know that sometimes I’m going to have to work through a rough patch. But you know, it’s kind of inspiring, not gonna lie.
Can you tell me more about what you posted on the “St. Olaf 666” Facebook page after the request for a serenade on the “St. Olaf Flirts” Facebook page? What was the story behind that?
There was a flirt that I saw; I don’t know if that one was inherently about me, but it was like, “To the trumpet players, St. Olaf can you use your talent to serenade us with a version of ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ at 4 on Tuesday,” and I was like, wow that’s super specific. I mean, I wasn’t doing anything. I’m just trying to find excuses to play again because that’s what brings me joy, so I was like, you know what? Let’s do it. So I went outside, pulled up “Hips Don’t Lie,” listened to it a few times, figured out the notes and then I was just letting it rip into the forest to be honest. And luckily enough, when I recorded it, it was like 3:50ish so I could upload it just at 4.
Are you hoping there might be a potential romantic partner behind all these flirts?
You know, I would not complain. However, I am not actively looking. I think I’m in a very secure relationship with my trumpet at the moment.
Even now that the quarantine period is over, Merrick plans to continue serenading the St. Olaf community. He hopes to play some jazz sometime soon on the quad with his friend Colby Andersen ’23.
Interview has been edited for clarity.