After a performance one night Jonathan was kind of frustrated with himself. He knew he could play the piano better than anyone but why was he so bored on stage? Did the audience sense it and get bored as well? This nagging feeling he felt after each performance – there was something missing.
His father approached him the next evening after they had finished dinner.
“So, whats going on with you? Are you happy with your performances?”
“Yes, of course I am.” He responded defensively.
“As you should be.”
“Thank you Pop. My only problem is that I get bored up there.”
“You need to find your voice, Johnny, it will come in its time. You are so young and have accomplished so much yet, you still have so much to give.” He moved a strand of hair that had fallen onto Johnny’s face and then sat back and smiled.
“Why are you smiling like that?”
“Because you are bored.”
“So you are happy I am bored on stage?”
“Well, let me explain. When someone is given all the tools, the talent and the chances to express these gifts they can go in many ways. But the crossroads are what will define you, which road you choose will be your destiny.”
“I don’t understand, is this a ‘Don’t take drugs’ story? Trust me I do not have the desire to ingest any of that crap.”
“No this is not – but the point I am getting at in my clumsy way is; you are bored. So find a way to excite yourself on stage. You don’t have to fit the mold of the stuffy conductors or performers; you can be Johnny as well as Jonathan, but you need to find balance, you need to discover your unique identity within, just as you discovered your musical talents.”
“So, do you have any ideas?”
With that his father let out a laugh, “I have no idea whatsoever and no one does or should. It is your own identity you need to discover and you will be rediscovering it for the rest of your life.”
“So what do I need to do now to get a hint?”
“Kid, just be true to yourself and it will come out. When you go to see a performance of any kind, watch how it is presented by the artist. Take what you like out of it and make it your own. I am sure you will feel foolish at times, feel empowered at other times. But after a while you will develop your own stage persona and you will not only excite yourself but you will ignite the audience.”
In 1970 he was scheduled to perform at the Hollywood Bowl with an eclectic group of performers – all younger than 24 years of age. The main point for the show was to try try and gain enthusiasm for Classical Music; mostly for the younger generation. He was the final act since he was the best known out of the lineup – he wore a tuxedo with his long hair flowing onto the back of his coat.
He walked onto the stage – just him and a grand piano in the great amphitheater where so many legends had performed; Al Jolson, The Beatles, Leonard Bernstein…He walked onto the stage straight towards his piano bench, bowed towards the audience, sat down and began to play a slow version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” Sensing the crowds so-so reaction to it he decided to introduce the next song.
“This song by Sergei Rachmaninov is one that sashays, bounces and reminds me of time passing, of confrontations and then soft kisses…”
He played Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto 2 with an intensity that even surprised him. His fingers dancing across the keys and his mind picturing the music – the two lovers, loving, fighting, kissing, dancing, jumping, aging…and then a soft dance with twirls and a final dip sealed with a soft sensuality that can only be dreamed, can only be hoped for but never quite obtained…ending it with that final abrupt plunge. The crowd roared with approval, he stood up and bowed. He sat down and began to speak again.
“My mother was blessed to get out of Europe before the war began. Her love of music and art was always a major part of our lives. She taught me about classical music, the Blues, Jazz, and of course Rock n Roll before it even had a name. She taught me that music has no barriers; music is never bound by race, color or religion. Music is about freedom; this piece by George Gershwin was written in the 1920’s and believe it or not, if you close your eyes and listen, really listen, you will see that its all about sex, love, rebellion, dancing and breaking free from, as Mr. Dylan would say, ‘Society’s pliers.’ At least that’s how I feel it and its how I play it.” He then broke into “Rhapsody in Blue.”
The crowd loved it and then he ended with kicking his piano bench behind him and throwing his arms up in victory. He then stood up, bowed and to great applause walked off the stage. It was his finest performance up to that point and it sparked a new interest in Jonathan Krazinski. He had He was inspired, he would later say, from the night before the show.
The night before, a friend of his asked him to go to a show at The Troubador in Hollywood. There was a piano player from England who was making his debut in the states and apparently it was a big ticket. When he walked in he saw all these famous people he had only heard on the radio or read about. Bob Dylan, Carol King and Neil Diamond, among a lot of others he didn’t recognize. Then this short dude with glasses and long hair took the stage, sat down and began his show. He was a presence on the stage and although his music had been kind of classical and dark on the album he had just come out with – he had added some other songs to the playlist. His name was Elton John and he inspired Jonathan to realize that the piano was not the only instrument that God had given him. He was also blessed with a personality that could light up a room. Until that evening at the Troubadour, he had held it in opting instead for the seriousness of the trade. It was then that he realized what was missing from his performance.
He loved the performance, especially the last song, “Burn Down the Mission.” Although there were other rock n roll pianists there was something about the way Elton played that night. It really made Jonathan realize that he wanted to play rock n roll and add in the blues and jazz. He wanted to mix up the classical music which he loved with some sex and some sweat. But that wasn’t who he was – he was a classical musician and he loved it. He loved to conduct, he loved to perform and he loved the atmosphere.
Jonathan began what would be an amazing string of success – for the next twenty eight years, from 1971 until late 1999 he was known as “The Entertainer.” He headlined three separate one man shows on Broadway and then for each he would tour the world with stops across each continent. He was successful beyond his expectations – celebrity had come to him he had not looked for it. He just wanted to be the best at what he loved to do the best and he was.
In 1976 as his star was still rising he was on Broadway performing five times a week to sell out crowds. One night his parents came to see him backstage with a neighbors niece.
“Jonathan, I would like you to meet Sophia, she is Mr. Greens niece; she is a big fan of yours.” Sensing what his parents were doing he was about to be distant and cold to the “Fan,” when he looked at her and saw her green eyes.
“Its beautiful to meet you.” He said, “I mean, its great to meet you Sophia.”
“Its an honor Mr. Krazinski, I have been a fan forever. I was at the Hollywood Bowl when you played that amazing set.”
“What were you doing all the way in Los Angeles?”
“I was living with my cousins in Sherman Oaks and going to a USC. I only went for the one semester and then came back when my father had a heart attack.”
“Oh I am sorry.”
“Its OK he lived but was in the hospital for a month and it was during the winter break so I just stayed home.”
“Two minutes Mr. K!” The stage manager called out.
“You better get to your seats – how about we get something to eat after the show?”
“Sounds great!” George and Bertha simultaneously answered for all of them.
After the show George and Bertha told Sophia they would meet her and Jonathan at the restaurant.
“Hey Sophia, how did you feel about the show?”
“I truly enjoyed it – you really are a natural. When you speak to the audience its as if you are speaking to one or two people and each of us feel as if you are speaking to them directly.”
“Well I was speaking to you directly.”
She blushed and then smiled.
“Where are my parents?” He asked.
“They said they would meet us at the restaurant,” she replied, “By the way which restaurant?”
With that he burst out laughing and said, “It seems this is our first date.”
Six months later as he was about to perform the final song of his three month engagement at the Uris Theater in New York when he stepped away from his piano.
“These past three months have been nothing short of exhilarating. I have played here night after night for 3 months and each performance has a special place in my heart. But tonight, as I get ready to leave the stage I know that its time I take a break. There is someone in this audience that has added a dimension to my life that was totally unpredictable, at least to myself, that whatever trajectory my life was on its course has been changed. With that in mind I am going to walk back to my piano, my first love of my life and play a song for that person in the audience who has changed my life forever.”
Sophia, watching from the first row was in tears; she loved him and wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. Sophia thought back to when she was a little girl and the man she dreamed of meeting and marrying. She could not have dreamed of anyone better than her Piano Man. She watched and tears welled up in her eyes.
“I have often brought up my family when introducing the music I play. n pieces or, not to put mine in the same category, the pieces of music which have inspired me, moved me and somehow helped me identify who I am. My mother is from Hungary and one of her musical inspiration was a composer by the name of Frank Liszt. This piece, entitled ‘Prelude’ is one full of waves of emotional surrender. That’s how I sense it at least. To me, emotional surrender is when we reach a point in our lives where we are at peace within ourselves which in turn leads us to surrender any emotional barriers. this gives us the ability to accept love from another.”