Stephen O’Dowd came to me for a few piano lessons when he was 15 or 16. To be honest, he could play piano pretty well already, and was more keen to pick my brains on chord theory and the blues than any piano fundamentals.
Even then it was clear that he had a great musical brain, and coupling that with his genes he always had a fighting chance of becoming a really good musician.
So it came to the end-of-year concert that year, and one of my other students had learned the accompaniment to a song, but needed someone to sing it.
Stephen, despite the fact that he didn’t sing much at the time, volunteered to sing the song, to dig his fellow student out of a hole. And he did fine – if I’m honest he probably didn’t blow anyone in the room away – but what was more impressive than his vocal performance was his willingness to try it, at short notice but firmly in the spirit of the music.
Stephen is the representative of the past participants in Week 2 of the Teenage Theme Night Sessions, and watching him deliver this excellent vocal (and swinging guitar accompaniment) on Randy Newman’s You Got a Friend in Me brings me back to that day.
Because the point I made to the other students after Stephen got up and sang was that the best way to improve at something was to do it. To throw yourself in at the deep end. Try it. Work at it by doing it.
This is clearly what Stephen has done, and I imagine will continue to do – more power to him.