I was completely shocked when I walked into Our Lady Chapel to interview my friend and fellow classmate, Richard Jones (’20). The sweet music coming from the piano sounded like a professional was playing it. My face must have shown my utter amazement. Richard laughed as I gushed over his music. Then he said modestly, “Thank you! I appreciate it. It’s a gift to be able to play.”
Richard has attended Gilmour since Montessori Preschool. He is an active member on the weekends at church, and is often seen reading announcements at Convocation in the morning. On December 17, 2017, the Richard Jones showed incredible talent with 33 other performers at the American Protégé International Music Competition at Carnegie Hall. Richard had won a national contest to play. He was one of the lucky chosen few.
“I play because my parents find it important to be educated in music.” Richard said he began playing the piano at the age of four, through the after-school music programs at Gilmour’s Lower School. At the time, his original teacher, Miss Kimmy, helped Richard build a strong foundation for his piano playing career. “She was the one who started it all,” Richard told me.
At the age of eight, Richard transitioned to his current teacher, Mrs. Ella Karasik. She was recommended by a fellow Gilmour student. “This was when I got serious about playing the piano,” Richard said. He remembers practicing for only 20 minutes every day when he started. Now, he plays for an hour or more per session.
Then the opportunity to play at Carnegie Hall was suggested by Mrs. Karasik, in the summer of 2017. Richard’s piece, a Chopin Polonaise, was recorded on the Steinway piano in Our Lady Chapel, here at Gilmour. Despite their hesitation, the Jones family submitted the piece to the contest in accordance with Karasik’s wishes. Richard said, “All the glory to God and many thanks to Mrs. Karasik. Without her, we would have never submitted the piece.”
After submission, things went as usual until October of 2017, when Mrs. Jones received an email saying that Richard’s piece had won honorable mention – he was going to be playing at Carnegie Hall. “I was elated,” Richard said. “I didn’t know what to say. I had never thought in a million years that my piece would have made it!”
Following a stressful week of midterms, Richard and his family boarded a plane to New York City. Of Carnegie Hall, Richard said, “It was an amazing feeling, knowing all the greats have played here, and now, I’m with them.”
Backstage, Richard was whisked off to a practice room, where he sat in anticipation, during 29 other performances, for his turn. When he described the incredibly nerve-wracking experience, Richard said, “Every sound was amplified. My shoes sounded like firecrackers walking across the stage. I don’t think I’ve been more nervous in all my life.”
“The experience of playing was a total rush,” he said. “It was over before I knew it.”
I felt the same way about our interview. Meeting with Richard made me realize that even close friends can have incredible talents you may not know much about.
I wanted Richard to share with me some advice for anyone chasing a dream. He rubbed his chin in deep thought and then said with excitement, “To all future pianists, I advise you to keep playing. It’s difficult, but in the end, there’s nothing more rewarding than to hear your fingers glide across the keys.”