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Keep going, don’t quit, son.


A legend is an unverified story handed down from earlier times; especially one popularly believed to be historical.

The talented Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941) was a politician and spokesman for Polish nationalism. He also gained worldwide fame as a pianist and became a significant composer.

He began studying music in Berlin in 1881. Following his musical debut in Vienna in 1887 his popularity increased with subsequent appearances in Paris in 1889 and in London in 1890. Each of those successes brought greater admiration. Beginning in 1891, he became very popular in the United States where he is probably best remembered for his famous composition, “The Minuet in G.”

Legend has it that something very special happened at one of Paderewski’s American concerts. It was an evening to remember; black tuxedos and long gowns, a high-society extravaganza.

Hoping it would speed her nine-year-old son’s advancement on the piano, a young mother arranged for him to attend that Paderewski concert with her. She thought he would be encouraged to practice more if he could just observe the immortal Paderewski at the keyboard. Thus the young boy, against his wishes, was attending the concert.

After the two of them had been seated in the concert hall, the mother spotted a friend in the audience. She asked her son to remain in his seat while she walked down the aisle to greet the friend. Weary of waiting, the boy seized the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall. He slipped out of his seat and explored his way through a door marked, “No admittance.”

His eyes were drawn to the ebony Steinway concert grand and its leather tufted stool on that huge stage flooded with blinding lights. Without much notice from the sophisticated audience, the boy sat down on the stool and stared wide-eyed at the black and white keys. He placed his small fingers in the right locations and began to play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

The chatter of the crowd hushed and hundreds of frowning faces turned toward him. Irritated, they began to shout:

“Get that boy away from there!”

“Who’d bring a kid that young in here?”

“Somebody stop him!”

In horror, the mother looked toward the stage and saw her young son sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

Backstage, the master overheard the sounds; he quickly realized what was happening. Hurriedly he grabbed his coat and quickly made his stage entrance. He rushed over to the piano and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t quit, keep playing.”

Then, without further explanation Paderewski leaned over behind the boy and began to improvise a countermelody to harmonize with “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” His left hand began filling in the bass part. Soon his right arm reached around the other side of the child and began adding a running obbligato.

All the while, as the two of them played, Paderewski kept repeatedly whispering in the boy’s ear, “Keep going, don’t quit, son. Keep playing, don’t stop, don’t quit.”

Together, the old master and the young novice transformed what might have been a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. Reportedly, the audience was so mesmerized with the duo’s performance that following the concert many of them couldn’t even recall what other numbers the maestro played. They could only remember the classic, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

This celebrated legend offers two wise lessons for those involved in a complex mission: First, “keep going; don’t quit. Don’t give up!” Secondly, be profoundly grateful when you have a “Paderewski” standing behind you!

Ken and Nan Webster have collected inspiration for many years from many sources, and now inspire readers of “A Matter That Matters.” Contact them at kennanco@gmail.com or visit www.kennancompany.com.

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