“In the third-grade, mom put me in piano lessons. I was in there for the third- and fourth-grade, but I didn’t really learn anything. I was just playing ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ stuff, and I was wanting to do fun stuff. It was too slow,” Jacob said. “I’d hear it once and play it by ear and my piano teacher would yell at me because I wasn’t looking at the notes.”
Eventually fed up with young Jacob’s lack of commitment, his mother Marsha finally let him quit his lessons.
Five years later, his dad introduced him to a new style of music – Jerry Lee Lewis. Ever since, Jacob’s whole outlook on music has been different.
“I started getting CDs and DVDs, and Jerry came out with a DVD of him playing piano, and it showed his style and how he played. I got it in January (2008) and learned how to play from that,” Jacob said.
In only 13 months, Jacob rediscovered the piano; learning mostly on his own, with some help from his school music teachers, Sonja Thompson and Linda Tieman.
Today he still learns most of his songs by ear, so he really enjoys playing the kind of music he likes to listen to most. Not only playing Jerry Lee Lewis, Jacob also enjoys Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, and ragtime music.
“Usually I have to go back through. I have to fast forward and rewind the music until I get it right,” Jacob said. “My friends like it, but I think they get annoyed by it because they hear it over and over and over.”
Last year Jacob saved up his money and finally got to see Jerry Lee Lewis in concert.
“I went up and shook his hand. He was kind of overwhelmed. Everybody was yelling his name and shaking his hand,” Jacob said. “I said ‘Jerry I’m the one that wrote you seven times and bugged you for your autograph, and sent you a CD of me playing,’ and his friend, Cecil, said ‘Yeah, I remember you. Good job on that DVD.’”
Having been renewed in his music Jacob kept practicing, and last month he was invited to perform for the Portsmouth Rotary Club.
“I had a DVD on my computer playing, with him singing and playing in the eighth-grade at a school concert, and (Scioto County Literacy Council Director, and Rotarian, Susan McComas) saw it and thought he was fabulous, and she asked him if he would come and do that,” Marsha said of her son’s discovery.
After the Rotary meeting, it’s tradition for someone to draw from a hat the name of one lucky Rotarian who wins $30. This time, though, Rotary members decided to give that money to Jacob. With that, along with other tips he made that day, Jacob earned $50 for his first professional gig.
Now Jacob has his piano aimed at New York. He submitted a recording of his work to audition to perform ‘New York, New York’ for the Triple Crown Horse Race.
When he’s not playing piano, Jacob also likes collecting autographs, with stars like Dick Van Dyke, Tony Bennett, Jerry Lee Lewis, and about 200 others.
“I’m just weird. I like the old stuff,” Jacob said. “Tony Bennett came out with a coffee-table book of his paintings, and I sent him a Christmas card last year with tickets from the concert I went to go see him from asking him to sign them. He sent me back his big coffee-table book for free. It was like $50 in the stores.”
He also got his tickets back, signed by Bennett.
Jacob’s mother said she’s been surprised and proud that her son has so much talent, and perhaps enjoys a little guilty pleasure reminding him just how hard she tried to get him to play the piano years ago.
“I think he’s great, and it’s an excellent thing to get into. I’m really proud of him,” Marsha said.