Dad, daughter team find COVID silver lining — making a marimba

Since the clos­ing of school build­ings on March 13th, Quakertown Community High School senior Kaitlyn Zajkowski has missed her time in the band room where she could “find my peace” play­ing her favorite musi­cal instru­ment, the marim­ba.

During the quar­an­tine from the COVID-19 Pandemic, she dis­cussed options with her par­ents, but list prices for marim­bas begin at about $2,500 and can reach $20,000. So pur­chas­ing the per­cus­sion instru­ment that con­sists of a set of wood­en bars struck with rub­ber mal­lets to pro­duce soft, musi­cal tones was out of the ques­tion.

Cut off from music “in a band sense” and “long­ing to get back to music,” Kaitlyn began search­ing for ways to solve her chal­lenge. She fired up her com­put­er and quick­ly real­ized her only option was to build her favorite instru­ment. She spoke with her dad and the father-daughter team agreed to become the dynam­ic duo.

Neither had a back­ground in this type of endeav­or. Ed Zajkowski works in Information Technology and Kaitlyn, a sharp stu­dent who plans to study engi­neer­ing in col­lege — either bio­med­ical or mate­ri­als sci­ence — acknowl­edged “we had no clue what we were doing.”

Still, the fam­i­ly knew that if Kaitlyn put her mind to it, there was no stop­ping her on this mon­u­men­tal effort. “She nev­er once thought this wouldn’t be done,” Stephanie Zajkowski said. “She didn’t even hes­i­tate.”

Dad agreed. “Kaitlyn can be relent­less if she wants to do some­thing,” he said. “This was an oppor­tu­ni­ty for us to learn and to share.”

Dad pur­chased the wood and oth­er mate­ri­als to build the large instru­ment and their four-month effort, com­plet­ed in mid-July, cre­at­ed a life­time of mem­o­ries. Dad would watch his daugh­ter research, size, cut, sand, stain and tune each key while he han­dled the heav­ier work. He was close by as his daugh­ter rapid­ly matured before his eyes.

“It gave us a chance to have some good con­ver­sa­tions,” Mr. Zajkowski said. “I got to see her brain work­ing. She is dri­ven.”

Kaitlyn admit­ted many mis­takes hap­pened along the way. “Sometimes a key wouldn’t come out right but we would find ways around that,” she said. “At one point we had to redo a ton of keys. I messed up mea­sure­ments. But when­ev­er we had set­backs we would sup­port each oth­er. Our goal kept us on track.

“I’m super hap­py with it. It’s just for prac­tice so it doesn’t have to be per­fect. It’ll always be a work in progress. I’ll always be improv­ing it and I’ll always be work­ing on it to improve my skills.

“It was real­ly an enjoy­able expe­ri­ence bond­ing with my dad. It was hard work but so worth­while. I’m so glad that we did it. It’s so spe­cial that we got to work togeth­er.”

Said Mr. Zajkowski: “It’s some­thing she’ll always remem­ber. some­thing I’ll always remem­ber.”