His name is Alex.
My reason for writing this is to ask you to do something important for him.
I first met Alex when he was 12 years old.
At the time I was host of a cable TV show called "Living Well." It ran weekly on HEC-TV. I think the total audience was 53. But the show gave me the opportunity to interview some rather interesting people, most of them seniors, because that's who the show was meant for.
So what was I doing interviewing a 12-year-old kid? Well, he was quite a kid.
Turns out Alex had a burning interest in World War II. It began when his dad took him to France and showed him the beaches at Normandy. Now Alex had made a hobby of collecting items associated with the war, even seeking out veterans. Not long after my meeting with him, Alex produced a documentary called "Six Heroes," a series of interviews with six men who had landed in Normandy on D-Day. It was an impressive effort, good enough to win him Best Documentary at the St. Louis International Film Festival that year.
Like I said, he was quite a kid.
I wish I could tell you this story has a happy ending. It doesn't.
Alex went on to better things, became a positive influence on many friends and younger people, went to college, gave his parents much pleasure. And some concerns. Alex had a tendency to drive too fast. And that's what ended part one of his story. As his parents said, "He was a meteor who shot across our skies."
That was a little more than three years ago.
And now a new story has begun.
You see, his dad, Tom, has established Pianos for People as part of the Alex Townsend Memorial Foundation. Their mission is to put out-of-work pianos with young households, children's centers, shelters, the elderly, and everywhere that music should exist, but doesn't.
Tom plays piano. I play piano. We both love jazz, blues, and the New Orleans stew of rhythms and harmonies. So music is one of the common bonds between us. When Tom told me about his Piano Project, I asked if I could help.
You're reading it.
I'm asking you to do a couple of things. First, if you have a piano you don't want anymore, or know somebody who does, contact the foundation. There are a lot of used pianos out there that go wanting for someone to appreciate them. Yes, pianos have souls.
There's one more thing you can do. Pianos for People is a finalist for a grant from Monsanto. The money would help them refurbish more pianos and get them to more people. All you need to do is vote. You can do it once a day through this Monday, May 20th. Voting is not limited to just St. Louis. Wherever you live, you can vote. Here's the link:
Music has been a huge part of my life, from the time I began taking lessons at the age of 8 (yes, they had pianos back then, not just harpsichords) until today, when I enjoy listening to Rachmaninoff's Second, Meade Lux Lewis' boogie, Peterson's songbooks, and Benny Green play with twenty fingers, or so it seems.
I know of Tom's love for music. I know what music can mean to help shape people's lives. Pianos for People is an inspired concept. Join the chorus.
That takes me to two quotes I'd like to leave you with.
The first is by Plato.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination
and life to everything.”
The second one is by Heinrich Heine.
"Where words leave off, music begins."
Time to cue the music.