The Black and White Keys to the Door of Creativity

Jacob McGann's road to musical excellence

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Max Pixel Photo (CC0 Public Domain)

Aaron Fackenthall and Madie Devendorf

Many skilled pianists begin their training with hours of lessons, sonatas and concertos, and endless music theory. Though Jacob McGann has undoubtedly proven his talent at the piano, his first experiences with the instrument were slightly less formal.

“[I started playing piano when I was] really young, and my mom bought a Costco keyboard for 30 dollars and I sort of messed around on it,” McGann said.

Though McGann’s mother helped further his passion for piano, and soon, McGann played frequently. However, not everyone in his family was so fond of the instrument.

“My middle brother would sort of sometimes just push me off of the [piano] bench, just because he liked doing homework and watching tv and didn’t want the piano in the background. But he ended up supporting me later in my piano career,” McGann said

McGann first considered performing when he witnessed artists in downtown Boulder. “[When I was younger] my family would go down to Pearl street, and seeing all of the street performers gave me an idea… I was like, ‘if I just learn songs that everyone knows, then I don’t see why I couldn’t make some money and have some fun,’” McGann said.

McGann has been preforming ever since. During the summer, McGann usually performs on Pearl Street once a week and on the weekends. Though McGann doesn’t play an actual piano, moving his keyboard is still a somewhat lengthy process. “We have an old goalie bag where we just put the stand and all the stuff. There are extension cords, even like bug spray, stuff like that.  Usually I take a second person with me. I’ll take the keyboard and we’ll drive there,” said McGann.

Interaction with the audience is an important component of his Pearl Street performance. “I have a request list. So what I do is I have a stand, and I have a list of all the songs that I know or just ones that people know. So they’ll look at that, get ideas, or just start requesting songs…[For example, if] someone picks Journey, I will play other songs that maybe aren’t on the list by Journey.  It is just sort of what they like.  I’m the entertainer,”” said McGann.

Though McGann doesn’t believe that he’ll end up playing piano for a living, he still enjoys the experience of performing. Once summer arrives in Colorado, you’ll likely be able to find McGann on Pearl Street, taking audience requests and playing some Journey.