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1-Man Marching Band Entertains Mass. Town During Pandemic

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

During Italy's lockdown, opera stars famously sang arias from their balconies. In Brooklyn, an accordionist entertained neighbors from the stoop of his brownstone. And then there's the music that comes marching down the streets of Watertown, Mass. Here's Bruce Gellerman of member station WBUR.

BRUCE GELLERMAN, BYLINE: Long before you can see Zachariah Hickman, you can hear him coming down the block. The low notes of his instrument carry far.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GELLERMAN: He marches down the middle of the street in the middle of the day.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GELLERMAN: Zach Hickman is a professional bass player. He was supposed to be on the road playing with singer-songwriter Josh Ritter when the pandemic hit. Hickman headed back to his hometown and turned into a modern-day Pied Piper, pulling curious Watertown neighbors onto their porches, drawing smiles from windows as he plays his unusual instrument. It's decorated like a mythic monster.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Do you always have the dragon?

ZACHARIAH HICKMAN: This is the Loch Ness. This is Nessie, the world's only Loch Ness monster sousaphone.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Laughter).

GELLERMAN: It's a sousaphone?

HICKMAN: Yeah.

GELLERMAN: It's not a tuba.

HICKMAN: They're very close related, but this is a sousaphone.

GELLERMAN: The tuba was the first instrument Hickman learned to play as a kid. He bought the sousaphone on a lark on eBay. He's a bit rusty.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GELLERMAN: And - oh, yeah, the Loch Ness monster? There are big pointy scales running down the spine of the main tube and fire-breathing flames painted inside the horn, where the oompa comes out.

HICKMAN: This is called the parade of one. I try to do a parade every day for my neighbors just to help break up all the monotony, you know. So I do a couple hours a day, maybe 90 minutes, couple hours a day, walk around to different neighborhoods.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Awesome. Thank you so much.

HICKMAN: Thanks. I appreciate it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GELLERMAN: And with a tip of his Navy captain hat, Zach Hickman marches on, glitter on his band uniform jacket sparkling in the sun.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GELLERMAN: For NPR News, I'm Bruce Gellerman in Watertown, Mass.

(SOUNDBITE OF REBIRTH BRASS BAND'S "WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.