Collaborating with a Fellow Volunteer 4/7

Steven Z -

Back in the first week of volunteering at Banner Gateway, I met another musician who comes to volunteer right after me. Don is an elderly man with a thick white beard and mustache, and he plays the piano. He carries a leather briefcase in which he stores sheet music that he gathered throughout the years. I glanced at my black puma backpack with a vague sense of inferiority. The corners of his eyes creased into a smile when he saw me. I can’t remember exactly what we said during our first meeting, but we agreed on playing some little duets in the future.

He was telling me that he had been volunteering by playing piano all his life. When he was young, he used to play at his mother’s church. One time after finishing a gig, someone yelled, “Do you know how to play the Beer Barrel Polka?” He did not, but since then he developed this tradition of starting with this piece at every gig. As he was saying this, he started joyfully patting the keys of the piano, creating a delightful beat. His motions were smooth and habitual. His fingers ran up and down the keyboard with ease, not at all concerned by the occasional goofy note. The music was simple, and filled with unpolished joy. I realized I have something to learn from this old man.

I saw him again the next week. This time he came a few minutes before his scheduled shift. He sat the briefcase down and surprised me with a single sheet of paper, titled “Le Cygne.”

More Posts


All viewpoints are welcome but profane, threatening, disrespectful, or harassing comments will not be tolerated and are subject to moderation up to, and including, full deletion.

    Kasey Ray
    Did he learn this song to play with you? Had you already played it before? I'm so intrigued by this and amazed by the performance!
    Sara Kubiak
    Music is the universal language! Steven, this duet gave me chills. You play so beautifully and I hope you continue to embrace little moments of musical collaboration like this.
    This song is kind of popular, so I guess the old man has probably already played it many times. He used to play piano with his dad, who played violin. I have never played it before though.
    Thank you Ms. Kubiak, it was an amazing experience.
    Steven, you have inspired my younger sister! I had no idea that you started in middle school. My sister, being younger than you when you started, occasionally questions if she started playing violin early enough. However, reading your blog and watching your performances gave her a glimpse of hope. Me personally, I am not a musical person (I only know basic piano), and you inspired me to pursue that when I can. You rock, Steven!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *