Friday, September 23, 2005

Piano prodigy

I've read Willamette Week on and off for many years. They can be liberal and reactionary, and what else would you expect from a local weekly. However I've found they can also be thorough and exhaustive, getting to the bottom of local stories and sometimes providing insight that people on the right or left can't get to without reaching the same level of depth in understanding.
And as a reward for that they received a Pulitzer this year.
Sometimes I rant about their obvious tilt. But today I celebrate an example of just how good this paper can be.

Stanley Waters grew up without knowing a father. His mother was addicted to crack for years before and after she had him. He floated from school to school, depending on who he was living with. He still has home issues, as his mom's present husband is no picnic. His grades suffer from a lack of knowing why he should even try. However, there is one area of life that Stanley excels above all his peers.
He loves to play the piano.
More than that, he taught himself to play complicated classical pieces with no previous training.
Stanley doesn't exactly read music. Instead, he listens to a piece over and over until he can make out every note and the slightest shifts in tempo and timing. One of Chopin's best-known pieces, Fantasie-Impromptu, involves battling times in the left and right hands-the left plays semiquavers and the right plays triplets-and Stanley spent hours tapping away the deceptively tricky rhythm on his lap before venturing to his keyboard.
His sense of pitch is almost perfect, as a piano teacher found. She could play a note while his back was turned, and he would turn around and hit the same key. Every time.

He remembers lying in bed, his whole body frozen in awe, floored that such complicated music had ever been written. He is shy as he tells this story, struggling to find the words to describe what it felt like. He remembers that there were tears as he listened, his eyes wide, his mind focused on every note. It was almost, he says, as if Chopin had reached through two centuries, shaking him out of some deep stupor, cutting right to his core.
"I like the way that music from so long ago is still around, and people are still listening to it-that it's that powerful," Stanley says. "And I like the fact that it seems really complicated but it's kind of simple at the same time. I feel calm when I do it. I'm so relaxed. I don't have a TV or anything, so I go to my room, turn it up, listening to tunes, and play for hours."
This is a great story about a kid with a future, who has the chance to overcome a childhood that many people would write off. I don't just recommend this article. I beg you to read it. In a nation of media that focuses on the negative, this story stands out.

1 comment:

Su said...

Thanks for passing this on. I'm going to ask my sister if she can give the Steinway upright she's trying to sell to this kid instead.