Every Thursday, visitors at the Gail Borden Library can push the revolving door and transition into a kind and plesant world where volunteer pianists play for a wide ranging audience, curious children circle the grand piano, and adults pass by slowing their pace to enjoy the melodies.
The talented volunteers were asked to share a little bit about themselves and their musical career. This month, Shirley Remes and John LaBorn provide words of encouragement and the power to connect abroad through music.
John LaBorn is not afraid to play piano in front of an audience, local or abroad, planned or impromptu. “I have traveled Italy extensively and have loved every minute of it. Because a piano has been available, I have played in the train stations in Venice, Rome, and Naples. I have played in the Rome airport, in a restaurant in Padova.”
In 2016, he would spend three months playing in Naples, Italy. “…The first day there I walked into a coffee shop that had a piano (there are only two places like this in Naples). I fell in love with the place, I was there almost every day. T his WONDERFUL place was called 7Bello Bar, it was magical, really. There were people from all over Europe and the US that stopped in and performed. Pianists, opera singers, clarinetists, and violinists. Oh, how I wish we had such a venue here in Elgin,” said John.
Today, his audience is local but still enjoy his performance. Library goers can hear the retired piano technician and volunteer pianist play mostly “old pop stuff” at the Gail Borden Library on Thursdays evenings. John also plays at the Green’s Retirement Center in Elgin several times a year.
“ I count it a joy that I have learned to play the piano well enough to share it with others. I hope that those who hear me play are pleased with what they hear and I hope that they hear music and not just notes on a page, ” said John.
John took piano lessons as a child, played at his church and would ultimately develop a passion for hymns. While somewhat self-taught, he admits: “I do have a favorite teacher, Mrs. Janice Razaq; a teacher I had too late in life to really excel. I feel if I had her as a teacher as a child I would be really accomplished.”
His favorite composers are Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy for piano, Verdi for opera, Mendelssohn, Handel, and Walton for choral. Like many musicians, he notes the giant challenge is to practice, practice, practice.
For the Bravo reader who wants to play for an audience, “My advice is to simply do it! Even if you do not play that well I think you should do it. I will never forget witnessing someone playing that I truly thought played less than mediocre, as I got closer to the piano, I heard someone thanking the pianist for his beautiful music and commenting that it touched their heart,” said John.
Even if performing is not in your interest, he is still delighted to meet locals who play the piano: “If someone comes to me at the library to comment on my playing, I always ask if they also play. I have been doing this for over 2 years now and I am disappointed to say that I have only encountered one person that actually played the piano. If you see me playing at the Gail Borden Library on Thursday nights from 7 – 8 p.m., please stop by and say hello, I would love to meet you!”
From 7 – 8 pm on Thursdays in April at Gail Borden Library.
On Sundays at Evangelical Covenant Church of Elgin.
This article was first published in March 2019 for Bravo Magazine, 5.4. (part of Marquee Media) as part of a series.