“This is like the seventies to me,” said local musician and Tybee Island resident Joe Jarka.
“People are out in their neighborhoods, waving to their neighbors, and there’s a sense of community. When I was a kid, my neighborhood always had a picnic each summer and different social gatherings, people had a bigger sense of community.”
Jarka, who has been a professional piano player and entertainer for over 20 years, has been filling his newly found free time promoting that same type of community involvement by live-streaming his musical performances via social media during the ongoing shelter-in-place order.
“The initial idea came to me because I had jobs scheduled that are now canceled, that my neighbors and community would normally be going out to,” said Jarka. “So I just set up my piano on the front porch and had a little neighborhood concert. I reached out on our neighborhood’s Facebook group page to see if people would be interested and got a very positive reaction. When I finished the first performance, my neighbors were clapping, people were dancing in the street, and they asked me to do it again the next day, so I got a lot of good feedback.”
While Jarka’s initial front porch production received a great response, the Tybee resident began to reconsider the possible repercussions of hosting the impromptu gatherings, albeit at a six-foot distance and has since decided to share his music via social media instead.
“I still have my stuff set up to where I can put a speaker outside for the neighbors to hear it,” said Jarka. “But I’m not out on my front porch, and I’ve noticed a lot of my neighbors have added me on Facebook, and are commenting and requesting songs they want to hear through there.”
Jarka, who’s used to making new friends and acquaintances from night to night while playing his regular sets at Macon’s Dueling Piano Bar, has found himself reuniting with friends from the past as well.
“It’s crazy because I’ll be on my live feed and I’ll see people like my high school English teacher and other classmates tuning in, or a friend of mine who lives in Germany that I worked with on cruise ships, so all of these different groups of people are coming together.”
Jarka’s love for his community shines through in his efforts to provide this momentary musical refuge, a welcome reprieve from the currently ongoing state of alarm faced by many across the nation.
“The thing that made me want to put this stuff out there was a sense sharing something for people to enjoy,” said Jarka. “In times of crisis, the artists rise up and take care of everyone. I think that was maybe the first post I ever made on Facebook about doing it, and I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to go about it, but I’m an entertainer, and I’m going to entertain, and I ended up getting this overwhelmingly positive response.”
“We’re all in this together,” reminded Jarka. “Do what you can to do your part, and help where you can. Playing music and entertaining is what I do, so I’m going to keep on doing it.”