A great feature on Timothy K. Adams Jr., the Mildred Goodrum Heyward Professor in Music and chair of the percussion area in the Hodgson School of Music, who has the distinction of being the last musician to appear on PBS' “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” in 1999:
“Most people on television have a different persona, and I kind of expected ‘Crazy Freddie’ to come out or something, but he was just that sincere and beautiful as a person when we were taping and when we were taking a break,” said Adams of Rogers, who died in 2003 after a broadcasting career of more than 30 years.
Adams appeared on episode No. 1,738, “Noisy & Quiet,” in February 1999. At that time, he was principal timpanist for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and professor of music at Carnegie Mellon University.
“Fred lived about a one-minute walk from the school, so I’d see him at school all the time and he came to a lot of concerts,” said Adams. “He knew who I was from playing in the orchestra, and once I did his show I’d see him even more.”
For his segment in “Noisy & Quiet,” Adams demonstrated a host of percussion instruments, including the tympani, drum kit and mallet instruments. Adams reiterated that with Rogers, what you saw was what you got.
“It took eight or 10 hours to shoot (the segment) and what was interesting was that he was super curious,” said Adams, a Covington native who has taught at UGA for nine years. “He was not acting; he was really curious about the instruments. So when we’d stop taping, he’d ask questions and he’d play all the instruments because he was a real musician.”
Noting that he was more of a Captain Kangaroo fan growing up, Adams said he didn’t watch “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” a lot as a child, but like just about every other kid in America, he was well acquainted with the show’s creator and star.
As the father of a 2-year-old son who loves watching Mr. Rogers reruns, Adams appreciates Rogers’ work even more these days.
“If there were more Mr. Rogers, we wouldn’t be in the state we’re in,” he said. “He tackled the tough issues that adults wouldn’t tackle on adult shows. He talked about assassination, racism, hate, suicide – adult subjects he felt were important for kids to understand, which is very true. Most of the adult shows didn’t deal with those issues the same way. They were very sensationalized, and to Fred it was important to understand that you have emotions and it’s OK to have emotions and we need to be kind to each other.”
So very true. As a fellow devotee of Captain Kangaroo (and Mr. Green Jeans) and as Adams' points out, Fred Rogers' broader cultural impact only became obvious later. A truly great human, and what a thrill for Adams to have been part of his show. Great story and our appreciation to professor Adams for sharing his experience.