From NY to Florida: Heymann (12) plays piano for the nation

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Emily Shi , Staff Writer

The poetic and melodious flow emitted from Jasper Heymman’s (12) piano performance for the National Public Radio (NPR) captivated both a live audience of 350 people and many others people listening at home nationwide. As a part of the organization’s “From The Top” classical music program featuring young musicians, Heymann performed a solo piece of “Transcendental Étude in F minor, “Appassionata” S. 139 No. 10” by Franz Liszt and a duet of “Dizzy Fingers” by Edward Elzear “Zez” Confrey with Co-Host and Alumni Pianist – who appeared on the show in April 2007 – Peter Dugan.

Four years ago, after being encouraged to apply to the program by his parents and friends who had previously done it, Heymann did not anticipate hearing back, he said. As a result, when he received an invitation last fall to travel to Key West, Florida and perform this January, his initial reaction was shock, confounded by the fact that he had even forgotten he applied, he said.

After Dugan and Elena Urioste, another co-host and violinist, introduced him, Heymann presented the title of the piece and immediately delved into a dynamic flow. Throughout his performance, the melody escalated into him playing faster and higher notes with a powerful tone throughout.

Dugan characterized the performance as “rhapsodic” and announced his praises to the audience after it concluded: “It roared, it thundered, it had such an incredibly dynamic range,” he said. “We are all just still recovering from what that performance was. Bravo.”

In his second performance with Dugan of “Dizzy Fingers,” Heymann displayed his versatility as an artist in multiple genres by offering a playful and lighthearted rhythm.

Besides versatility of various genres of music, Heymann has also played many other types of percussion, such as timpani, mallet percussion, and drums. “He’s done pretty much everything percussion related,” Music Teacher and Director Michael Bomwell said. “I think I’ve seen him become more comfortable in different musical settings and more at ease with just any kind of situation that he finds himself in playing-wise.”

Heymann has performed at numerous concerts and festivals throughout his music career – including the school’s “Concerts in Motion” show, Wind Ensemble performances as a principal percussionist, and a two-week tour abroad in England with the Leeds Piano Festival.

Still, this experience was unlike any other, he said. “There was a really scary thought that, ‘Oh god, almost everything I do and say will be heard by half a million people around the country,’ but even though there are tons of microphones on stage, you forget when you’re up there because it’s actually a really casual experience.”

Heymann said that the interview that followed his first performance allowed him to relax and interact with the audience. “It broke a barrier between the performer and the audience that usually is so prevalent from concerts…the fact that the entire show was recorded was completely drowned out by the fact that I could really engage with the people who are listening to.”

Bomwell attributes much of Heymann’s success to his sensitivity and attentiveness of his surroundings, he said. “He is able to put together all the different aspects of ensemble playing that we hope every member does, but he does it with such ease and grace and humility that it’s a pleasure to work with.”

The interview, conducted by Urioste, covered not only Heymann’s musical experience but also enabled him to share about different aspects of his life, including school, he said.

Heymann mentioned his preference for informal audience interactions when asked about the Leeds Piano Festival. Urioste said that though classical music can often be viewed as formal, performers like him are paving the way towards an audience interaction more focused on communication.

The lighthearted aspect of the interview made it his favorite part of the entire experience, Heymann said. “We were talking just about life, not just about music, but about how life is going and about school and stuff – it’s great to get off my chest and to kind of share with people who I normally wouldn’t talk to.”

Apart from the recording of the radio show, Heymann’s trip also included a day of community service where the young musicians visited a school of adults with learning disabilities and put on a free concert for them. “It’s a great opportunity to learn about how music can help those who usually don’t have resources and education in the arts,” he said.

As they performed the concert, Heymann said that many of the adults started to dance and sing along to the music. The most rewarding aspect of the concert was watching people who typically didn’t have resources or education targeted towards the arts open up and relax with the music, he said.

Prior to this experience, Heymann had searched for many other community engagement opportunities to fulfill his desire to give back through music, he said. This past year, he has performed in locations such as care centers, nursing homes, preschools, and hospices.

In addition to its role in service, Heymann said that he views music as a key part of his identity and development, as he has played piano since he was five years old, and spends over twenty hours practicing every week.

As a five-year-old, Heymann had originally wanted to start out by playing drums, and his parents encouraged him to study piano as well in order to gain a solid musical foundation and an understanding of basic principles of music theory, his father Andrew Heymann said.

In college, Jasper plans to continue to pursue music as a field of study to delve further into communicating with people. “Right now I’m kind of in an atmosphere where I’m not surrounded by a lot of kids who do what I do in music, and college is the perfect opportunity to finally introduce myself to the greater music community,” he said.

“I’ve always told Jasper that if, when he’s my age, he can sit down and play a beautiful piece of music decently, it will bring him great satisfaction,” Andrew Heymann said. At the same time, his father is looking forward to being surprised by Jasper’s potential as an artist and his ability to weave different interests together.

Jasper’s goal is to pursue a field of science and music simultaneously after he graduates, as he said that he draws many connections between the two. “I know a lot of engineers who perform as a secondary job,” he said. “That’s kind of the dream for me.”