I am an activity coordinator for a continuing care retirement community in South Carolina. Each month we try to schedule a musical performance and it just so happened that Choo Choo was set for the last day in January. Her listed credentials spoke for themselves, and the fact that she wasn't afraid to put video clips on her page demonstrating what she could offer further validated her skill level. She is without a doubt well educated and experienced with classical piano.
From the initial reply, Choo Choo was very enthusiastic about coming to our facility. I can imagine that performing in front of 100+ residents of a retirement community after playing in various parts of the world and in fancy chambers in front of large crowds wasn't the highlight of her career upon receiving my initial message. And yet, still, she replied in a manner that seemed as if we were her priority in that moment. As someone who routinely schedules entertainment, I appreciate that focus and gratefulness for the opportunity. We worked quickly to schedule a date and time that worked with our schedule and hers since she was traveling a few hours from her home in the city. We had a plan that worked for both of us, and she was sure to keep in touch for nearly two months leading up to our event to maintain a line of communication (and my comfort level with her coming).
On the day of the event, she arrived an hour early to best prepare. I showed her the venue and introduced her to our baby grand. I shared how much our residents had been talking about her performance. To put it mildly, they too were impressed with her resume, many of which asking how I managed to find her. Choo Choo tested out our baby grand piano to warm up and to get a feel for how it played. Then, she went into a side room we had made available to her and waited for the room to fill up.
Residents began to filter in as we had to pull out more chairs to accommodate all who came to see her. Once 11:00 hit my assistant briefly introduced her to the crowd and she bounced out of the room smiling ear-to-ear and waving to everyone in attendance. She took the mic, thanked everyone for coming and provided a general overview of how the recital would go. And then it happened.
For an hour and ten minutes Choo Choo played that baby grand like I’d never heard anyone play it, each piece taking on power and drama and yet still finding softness and understanding in critical moments. Having never been exposed to live classical music like this, I was completely blown away. I’d listened to music my entire life but never once experienced something like this. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched the emotions flow from her facial expressions through her fingertips. It was obvious that she believed in all that she was creating. She felt it.
At the last key stroke, I witnessed a first in my nearly 2 years in this position (we’ve had 40+ musical performances alone in that time). She received a standing ovation. Many of our residents struggle to stand, but unanimously, they believed it was appropriate. Some cried. More than 70 took the time to speak with her afterward to thank her for playing and to compliment her on her wonderful performance. Many of these residents themselves had been playing pianos for 80 years or more and even they were in awe. And even still, given her tight time constraints and expertise that is suited for a much more grandiose stage than anything we have to offer her, Choo Choo made our residents feel like she was the one on cloud nine.
If you are looking for an honest, thorough account of the professional that she is, take all that I’ve written above to heart. Residents who came will be talking about this until she comes back, and those who couldn’t make it will wish they had. She is charismatic, personable, professional, and without a doubt an excellent pianist. I would recommend her 100 times over and hope that she views our venue and hospitality in the same light.