Grace Amsden, Editor-in-Chief
It’s a canvas with many paintbrushes on it. There’s the body and the keys, which each have a different color. Some are dark, others are bright. When the two are combined, it creates a masterpiece.
This is a description of a piano by 17-year-old student Addison Daniels who lives a life that revolves around the piano; one of his goals is to practice six hours per day. To Daniels, opera is timeless, art pieces are meant for thinking and the performing arts serve as a stress reliever.
“To me, it’s not work; it’s just fun,” Daniels said, regarding the performing arts. “This is how I live my life. This is how I am. I guess some people have sports, some people have Mass, some people have all sorts of things. I guess I’ve just had performing arts.”
At 10 years old, Daniels sat on the piano bench for his first lesson, a fifth grader who’d learn to play just like his mother did. His first piano teacher was the same instructor his mother took lessons from.
Seven years later, Daniels still sits behind this black and white music maker, crawling his fingers across the whole range of the piano, his foot gently pressing against the bronze pedal. His favorite spot at Pierce College Puyallup is the practice room in the Arts and Allied Health Building. He can play by ear, and still doesn’t know how he can memorize it all.
“As soon as I got my lessons, I understood everything,” Daniels said. “It takes about six years for a person to learn all the basics (for piano). It took me two years.”
At his first piano recital, he played The Animal March, a two-page piece from his beginners book. Currently, he’s practicing Concerto in A Minor by composer Edvard Grieg that’s 32 pages. He’ll perform the piece in May at the University of Puget Sound with a live orchestra; he received the opportunity after a judge told him about it at a music festival and then he signed up.
Daniels learned this piece in eight months, but the amount of time a piece takes to master depends on how technical it is, he said.
His current piano teacher is Chris VanBuskirk, instructor at the Classic Keys Music Studio. VanBuskirk said Daniels is inspiring, gifted and has a brain that never shuts down. Daniels began taking lessons with her when he was about 15 years old.
“He’s very talented and is a great young man with a thirst for knowledge,” VanBuskirk said.
When Daniels sits on the piano bench to begin practicing, he said it can be a pain considering the amount of time it takes, though playing helps him relax before going to sleep.
Piano was the first instrument Daniels learned. Besides this, he can play the saxophone, drums, ukulele and is currently learning the guitar.
He’s also in a jazz music group called Take Five Jazz, made up of five individuals. The group performs at local farmers markets, including the one in downtown Puyallup. Some of the songs played by the group include St. Thomas by Sonny Rollins and In Walked Bud by Thelonious Monk.
“We jam out every once in a while with whatever gigs we get,” Daniels said.
Playing piano and being on stage is comforting to Daniels, who said that he doesn’t get nervous anytime while performing.
“In all actuality, I don’t like talking to people,” Daniels said. “I’m actually a really big introvert where it’s really hard for me, actually, to talk to people. But for me, acting and music and everything has been a really big help.”
His activities have helped in other ways, as well. Daniels has struggled with depression and anxiety and said he doesn’t always feel accepted.
“To be able to just pound out a Rachmaninoff piece is something that just really gets my blood going,” Daniels said. “It’s something that really captivates me. It helps me through my feelings. It’s just something that has been a really powerful tool for me.”
The stage isn’t limited just to piano recitals or musical performances for Daniels. He went to the International Modeling and Talent Association and ranked second runner up for the male junior actor of the year in 2014. He currently isn’t involved in any modeling projects.
Singing is something Daniels considers his “second home” after piano; he’s been taking singing lessons since seventh grade, currently with his junior high choir teacher.
He’s also taken six years of dance classes including contemporary and jazz. In addition to this, he’s an actor.
In school, he was cast in annual theater productions. The last show he was in was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at Tacoma Musical Playhouse and Cabaret at Tacoma Little Theater, both shows in 2015.
Though Daniels enjoys musical numbers, his top three favorite music genres are jazz, classical and opera. Everyone should experience an opera performance at least once, Daniels said.
“It’s really interesting to think of people that have been in the 17th century,” Daniels said. “They’re not different than us. They’re just from a different time and they have the same sense of humor.”
As for current music, Daniels compares these songs to desserts that someone may think they could eat frequently.
“As you continuously eat it, it’s just not filling enough,” Daniels said. “It’s not something that, to me, can last for centuries. I mean, here we have operas that have lasted for centuries and to me, it’s just like those are vegetables.”
Once he graduates from Pierce, he plans to go on a two-year mission trip for his church. He then aims to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology to become a counselor, a decision made from his experiences with depression and anxiety. He would like to work with prisoners, helping people who have lost hope and turned to crime.
He’s thought about combining music into his practice, though said music will probably serve as a stress reliever for him.
“Music would be the release for me where I can be able to just play and just to get the feelings out of whatever I feel,” Daniels said. “It’d be a healthy way.”
Even though he plans on this career pathway, his dream is to become a concert pianist. Yet, for the time being, the performing arts hold significance for Daniel and are something that’ll always remain in his life… even at 90 years old, he said.
“It’s my art, it’s my legacy. It’s part of who I am, it’s part of who I identify as,” Daniels said. “It’s me.”
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost
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