“Sing us a song you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight”
Walking unassumingly through bustling middle school hallways, one might never peg Scott Nuss as the piano man of Perry Hall. But sit him at a keyboard, hum a few bars of, say, a Billy Joel tune, watch him go to work, and you are left with no doubts.
Scott Nuss was made for this.
“I think I’m pretty good at the piano,” says the 12-year-old Glen Arm resident. “I love the music the piano makes. I love that it has 88 keys and that it’s so varied. I love a good challenge, and I love how playing the piano just challenges you to do better.”
And Scott takes his challenges seriously – seeks them out, even. Inspired by commercials he saw this past summer for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, he worked with his mother, Jill Nuss, and his piano teacher, Dr. Daniel Weiser, to come up with a way to contribute to the hospital’s work.
Billing themselves as “The Piano Men,” Scott and Dr. Weiser will play a concert featuring the music of Billy Joel on Thursday, April 6, at Perry Hall High School. All proceeds of the concert will go to St. Jude’s and to music departments at both Perry Hall high and middle schools.
“I’ve always wanted to do my own concert, so this has given me the chance to do that,” says Nuss, who is a Grade 7 student at Perry Hall Middle. “I’m not really nervous at all because of all the practicing I’ve done. I know all the songs by heart.”
Adds his music teacher at Perry Hall Middle, Courtney Croxton, “The most amazing thing about Scott is his ability to inspire others through sheer talent. He is beyond humble in his abilities, yet his talent speaks for itself, and he is well respected and admired by his peers.”
“He says, "Son can you play me a memory
I'm not really sure how it goes
But it's sad, and it's sweet
And I knew it complete,
When I wore a younger man's clothes."
Scott’s progress to this point seems a combination of both natural talent and perseverance. Scott credits his parents, Jill and Brad, with introducing instruments to him and his brother at a young age. It wasn’t until Scott began “playing around with a keyboard” at the age of 4 that his parents began to take his interest seriously; they hired a classical music teacher to begin to nurture Scott’s budding interest.
In time, Scott began to overtake the lessons planned for him by a succession of piano teachers. Practicing 30-45 minutes each day now, he has been drawn to more complex pieces as his mastery of the keyboard has progressed.
In the concert, Scott and Weiser will play a variety of solo songs and “six or seven” duets, Scott says, including “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and, of course, Joel’s iconic first hit, “Piano Man.” As early as Grade 5, Scott taught himself to play a neck-mounted harmonica just so he could duplicate the song’s harmonica interludes.
“I love how he has a variety of lyrics and really challenging stuff for me to play,” says Scott, whose mom introduced him to Joel’s catalog. “I like that it’s really hard.”
Scott says he wishes he could play another of his favorites, “Angry Young Man,” in the concert but that he didn’t have time to learn the rapid-fire keystrokes to Joel’s furious intro to the song.
Despite his piano passion, however, Scott generally doesn’t play the keyboards for the honors orchestra at Perry Hall Middle – he’s learning how to play the cello in music class.
“I had heard about Scott's abilities before he stepped foot into PHMS, as his elementary school teacher sent me a video of their concert where Scott performed with the band on piano,” Croxton says. “His ability to learn music quickly and to keep outstanding tempo and pitch, all while adding musicality to the pieces, has made him a true leader in class both on piano and cello.”
Croxton says Scott did accompany the school’s orchestra last year several times on piano, however. “He followed directions beautifully,” she says, “as accompanying is a totally different musical ballgame than performing solo.”
“It's a pretty good crowd for a Saturday
And the manager gives me a smile
'Cause he knows that it's me they've been coming to see
To forget about life for a while”
The concert idea came from trying to figure out how he could both help St. Jude’s and use his talents. With help from his mother, he and Weiser secured a date and space at Perry Hall High, where Scott hopes to attend in two years. That was in October, and since then, Scott has been publicizing the concert and practicing, practicing, practicing.
And, according to Donna Godwin, a resource teacher in the BCPS Office of Advanced Academics, Scott also recently received a state award for staging the concert from the Maryland State Advisory Council on Gifted and Talented Education. He received the recognition at a Feb. 16 ceremony at North County High School in Glen Burnie.
For now, though, Scott will focus on the April 6 concert, and looking for more rigorous keyboard tests. Tennis season starts soon, and Scott is on Perry Hall’s school team. And he wants to keep up in his studies, especially his favorites – science, technology education, and mathematics. But he knows he’ll always come back to the piano.
Scott says he hopes his classmates and others come to see him in concert, but he’s also planning another concert for a different charity in the future. “I should be more known for my piano playing by then,” he reasons, “so more people might want to see me play.”
“Sing us a song, you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we're all in the mood for a melody
And you've got us feeling alright”
Scott Nuss and Dr. Daniel Weiser, who earned his doctorate in piano/chamber music from the Peabody Conservatory and has been on the music faculty of Dartmouth College and St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., will be in concert at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 6, 2017, at Perry Hall High School’s auditorium. Tickets may be obtained in advance from firstname.lastname@example.org and a $10 donation is suggested. All proceeds will go to the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and the music departments at Perry Hall high and middle schools. Tickets also will be available at the door based on availability.
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