Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Music Man

I returned from a weekend away to a blaring TV. This is pretty normal, Grandma's hearing is not so good, possibly because she is always blasting the TV. Usually she is half-heartedly watching Maury or Law & Order and I can sneak the volume down whenever she leaves the room. But Sunday's programming was different. She had stumbled onto a PBS special featuring nine-year-old pianist Ethan Bortnick and his "musical time machine." Grandma was totally engaged with this little guy, watching about six inches from the TV. "Look at this! He's only nine years old. Oh, he's good!"

I'd never heard of this kid, but apparently he's been on The Tonight Show and the morning shows several times. His website features a video of him interviewing Quincy Jones. He described Gloria Gaynor as a close friend, and before she began "I Will Survive" she announced in a husky voice that Ethan plays the best arpeggio of anyone she's ever worked with.

Grandma is not normally a musical person. She never hums or whistles. She ignores when I put music channels on the television. All that I could tell you about her musical taste is that she likes "The Blue Danube." And yet, this little prodigy has totally captivated her. As PBS showed clips from the performance she was actually singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" softly to herself. Of course the show was punctuated with requests for money. If you donated $150 they were offering two tickets to an upcoming Ethan Bortnick performance. Grandma's response was, "$150? Yo! Cheap tickets, huh?" But beneath the shock over the price, I detected a note of wistfulness, like she really wanted to go and see the young pianist in person, and maybe even sing along.

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