Charlotte Mabrey arrived in Jacksonville after she received her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music from the University of Illinois in 1977. What was supposed to be a one year position as the Principal percussionist with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra (JSO) turned into a 27 year career. Over the years, the JSO experienced remarkable growth as a cultural beacon in Jacksonville. The city embraced the classical offerings and set about to fund a world class ensemble. This growth included additional full time musicians, construction of a world class performance hall and an extended season. The JSO has presented some of the world’s most sought after soloists, including Yo-yo Ma, Roberta Peters, Renee Fleming and Pink Martini.
Mabrey was a featured soloist with the orchestra as well. During her tenure, she performed Ney Rosauro’s “Marimba Concerto No.1,” John Mackey’s “ Percussion Concerto,” and Robert Bennett’s “Percussion Concerto.” In addition, Mabrey worked with the JSO percussion section to showcase the world of percussion in several concerts for the JSO Educational concerts and Family Series. After serving as the Principal for over 25 years, Mabrey stepped aside and now plays on an as needed basis.
While performing with the JSO, Mabrey was hired as the professor of percussion at the University of North Florida (UNF) in Jacksonville in 1983. As the overall program grew, the university built a Performing Arts Center and added additional faculty. During this growth spurt, Mabrey was tasked with developing the percussion curriculum. This included researching and developing all courses pertaining to the degree in percussion.
Over the next few years, the university and state legislature approved the Bachelor of Music to replace the Bachelor of Arts degree. During this time, Mabrey created and taught all levels of Applied Percussion, Percussion Ensemble, Percussion Literature, Percussion Pedagogy and Percussion Techniques. When the need arose, Mabrey also created a course on rhythm, which was open to all music majors and presented solutions to rhythmic problems faced by young performers.
Because Mabrey was performing with the JSO, a natural relationship developed between UNF and the JSO. An outgrowth of this relationship was the creation of the Contemporary Music Series. These concerts featured symphony members presenting cutting edge works at UNF. While this group existed for only 3 years, the repertoire performed was some of the most adventurous to date.
While Mabrey taught at UNF she felt a strong desire to present an annual percussion-oriented recital. For the next 26 years she performed “An Evening of 20th Century Music” on the UNF campus. These concerts began in a small space known as The Boathouse, famous mostly for pizza and beer! As the concerts drew more and more people, the concerts were moved to a 600 seat theater and then later to the new performing arts center, The Lazzara Theater. This performance hall, seating 1200 people, was sold-out on more than one occasion.
For the next 25 years, Mabrey presented her annual “ Evening of 20th Century Music.” The concerts featured percussion works for all ages! As the audience grew, so did the performances. Area musicians were involved as well as UNF percussion students. Mabrey used these evenings to perform contemporary music, poetry, lighting and movement.
Students were drawn to these types of experiences and the UNF percussion studio grew from one major to over 16. The teaching activities grew as well. Mabrey taught courses on American Music, Classical Music, Percussion Ensemble, Percussion Literature, Percussion Pedagogy, Percussion lessons on all levels and Rhythm Study.
In 1991, Mabrey was awarded the Undergraduate Teaching award from UNF. After being promoted to Full Professor, she received the Distinguished Professor Award in 2001. Then in 2016, Mabrey was named Professor Emerita of Music. Her students have gone on to hold positions in military bands, The President’s Own drum and fife corps, as university professors, as performers, and as music teachers at all levels from elementary to high school to university.
Her unique position of both active performer and educator allowed Mabrey to grow and learn throughout her years with the JSO and UNF. It brought a certain relevance to her percussion studio, one that constantly brought together the world of playing and education.