Fun Stuff

Joe Blundo commentary: ‘Senior’ revisits recital from college days

The Columbus Dispatch

Tom Hill checked a big item off his bucket list during the weekend.

To do so, he had to rent a concert hall, enlist a piano professor and spend two years practicing.

Hill, a 67-year-old lawyer, played seven classical pieces on Saturday at the McCoy Community Center for the Arts in New Albany for scores of friends and relatives invited to his “second senior recital.”

The first one took place 46 years ago at Grinnell College in Iowa.

“I wasn’t a piano major, but I was a fan of classical music, and I played not particularly well but ... as best I could.”

The idea for a second recital almost a half-century later was born after his wife, Laurie, found a Steinway grand piano at an estate sale in Bexley.

“The day I bought it, I said, ‘In two years, I’m going to do a bucket-list recital,’” Hill said. “I may flub it; I may stumble; I may not be able to get it done. I don’t care. I’m just going to try.”

He approached Richard Lopez — a classical and jazz pianist who teaches at Denison and Otterbein universities, and performs regularly in central Ohio — for instruction.

Student recitals are common, Lopez said, but not in rented 700-seat theaters.

“I was encouraging him to do a recital,” the professor said, “but I didn’t think it would be Carnegie Hall.”

Hill worked hard — harder than most college students taught by Lopez — and improved a lot.

He traces his love of music to his childhood in Canton, Ill., where his father, a shoe repairman, was known as a good singer.

The youngster helped his father get elected to the state Legislature by accompanying him on piano while he sang Stouthearted Men to campaign crowds.

His long-standing interest and his “senior recital” raise an obvious question: Does Hill, a partner in the Kegler Brown Hill & Ritter law firm who has represented Fortune 500 companies, regret not choosing music as a career?

He has a ready answer: When, at age 15, he told his kindly old piano teacher that he was considering a career as a pianist, she patted his knee and said he should consider something else.

“Best career advice I ever got,” he said.

Hill invited 400 people to his Saturday program, which included works by Brahms, Chopin, Gershwin, Mozart, Rachmaninoff and Ravel.

He seemed relaxed, shrugging off a couple of false starts and performing competently. He was given a standing ovation.

Lopez said afterward that his senior student had done well.

Hill said he was happy but added that he would have been happy however the performance had gone, because of the two years of effort.

“The joy of life,” he said, “is in the striving.”