This eight-year-old boy just saved the piano recital from itself

Photo by Tony Franklin
Dylan Spoering, an eight-year-old in south Minneapolis, just saved the piano recital from its own creeping death.

That's not an exaggeration. Piano recitals are among the worst forms of entertainment and performance ever concocted this side of tarring and feathering. The amount of humiliation, anguish, and uncomfortable dress shoes tied up in these sad affairs has got to stop right away.

This past weekend, Spoering proved that a piano concert in the rain is a far bigger draw than sitting in your average church assembly room with moldy low-pile maroon carpet while a rogue's gallery of young pianists -- many appearing against their will -- attempt "Chopsticks" and "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring." Imagine that.

Spoering had help for Saturday afternoon's concert, which was held on his family's stoop near Mueller Park. Musician Tommy Rehbein (Farewell Continental, International Karate, Party House) lives in the neighborhood and saw a handmade sign created by the young ivory tickler earlier in the week. A Facebook invite later, hundreds of folks were interested -- including several members of the local media. They made signs to cheer on the young Spoering, and treated the day like a miniature festival outing. It even ended up on UStream.

For the 10-minute show, the audience was excited, supportive, and absolutely gleeful to be in the presence of a musician they knew nothing about. Spoering's songs -- ostensibly cribbed from instructional piano books -- came off like short bursts of oft-atonal noodling, somewhere in the realm of experimenters like Jandek or John Cage. It was a liberating moment that put this young artist at the forefront, instead of some graying piano teacher turning the page and monitoring the performance as if an unattended student would otherwise set fire to his instrument.

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

As music fans, we love everything a piano recital is not. Jerry Lee Lewis, Quintron, Tori Amos, and Gregg Allman are among the countless rock musicians proving that a keyboard can be a high-wire act. The best from the classical world -- Lang Lang immediately comes to mind -- are doing the same. Cat Power performing at a piano with her back to the audience ramps up the emotional tension of the performance, but the same can't be said for so many slouching, paranoid youngsters in khakis afraid to miss a note of "Butterfly Kisses."

Next: My personal experience with piano recitals

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