LT senior, father work to construct marimbas

Pilar Valdes, Art Director

Hannah Hasenwinkel ‘19 and her dad, Mark Hasenwinkel, have built 11 marimbas for various playgrounds around the state. As a collaboration with Spaces For Play, a playground company focused on creative play and playground design, the marimbas they build are used as a way for kids to explore music, she said.

“Most playgrounds you see it’s like ‘this is a slide, this is a swing, and here’s something you can climb on’ and that’s about it,” Hannah said. “What I like is the idea of creative play. It really fosters imagination and music falls into the same category. You’re teaching kids to be creative to invent things and exposing them to something different.”

Mark, an independent contractor, was contacted by the company Spaces For Play three years ago about possibly building marimbas for playgrounds around the state. The company knew Mark was a contractor and that Hannah, who is in the drumline at LT, was interested in music, Hannah said. It wasn’t until a year later that they decided to take on the project.

“The first few marimbas we built took us about a month,” she said. “But now we can build one in two to three weeks.”

The marimbas they build differ from a typical concert marimba in a few ways, Hannah said. First, the materials used to build the instruments are different. Instead of the Honduran rosewood used on concert marimbas, the Hasenwinkels use Ipe wood, which is more durable but just as dense. Instead of metal resonators, the marimbas made for playgrounds have resonators made of PVC pipes. Also, concert marimbas are much larger than the ones the Hasenwinkels build.

The pair builds all of the marimbas by themselves in their garage and taught themselves all of the physics and math involved in the construction of the instruments.

“It’s just my dad, me, our garage and the internet,” Hannah said.

She handles most of the construction related to tuning and pitch, while her dad does most of the physical construction.

“That’s where I come in,” she said. “I help tune the bars and find the fundamental pitch. My dad does most of the cutting.”

Their most recent project was a marimba for Timothy Christian Park in Elmhurst, she said.

“I know if I had one of those marimbas on a playground I would be super excited about it,” Hannah said. “Definitely way more excited than I would be about going down a slide.”