Several years ago as I was flying back from New York after working an event at Lincoln Center, I watched a documentary of this young 12-year old Latino gang member. During a shootout in East LA, he had been shot several times and miraculously he had survived! Although he still experienced some paralysis and required further surgeries, he had escaped fatal organ damage. The therapist, who was also a piano player, would play now and then for the youngster on this old upright at the hospital as part of his therapy. The youngster responded to this with great excitement and enthusiasm.
The young Latino immediately expressed an interest in learning how to play the piano. He soon started to imitate everything that the therapist was playing with amazing proficiency! The therapist recognized the extraordinary talent that this young man displayed. A short time later, the therapist referred him to a more knowledgeable piano teacher. A year later, sponsorship was sought to enable the boy to develop his growing aptitude for the piano. Within a couple of years, the young Latino was invited to perform along with other young pianists at Carnegie Hall in New York.
When this young Latino was interviewed at 16 years of age, the film cited how his life had experienced a complete metamorphosis from the young ‘gang-banger’ to the polite, cultured, teen-talented pianissimo. The before and after pictures were absolutely amazing! When he first began playing Bach, Mozart and Beethoven piano pieces, he was shown playing with a gang-bandana around his head; wearing a t-shirt and baggy jeans with tattoos covering his arms and hands. Years later during his Carnegie Hall performance, he was dressed in a maestro’s full-tailed tuxedo, looking very sophisticated with a much more humbling demeanor. Following his final piece, he received a Carnegie Hall ‘standing ovation.’
Because someone had recognized his talent and abilities, this young Latino’s life had been changed forever!