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Self-taught pianist 'transfixes' audiences

April 11, 2011|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Eric Kauffman, a self-taught pianist, started playing 10 years ago on an electric keyboard.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

Eric Kauffman, 20, has never taken a piano lesson in his life, but he plays with the confidence and energy of a well-seasoned musician.

The Hagerstown native, who has the personality to match his talent, said he started playing 10 years ago on an electric keyboard. Since then, his grandmother has given him an organ, which he describes as “my best birthday present I had for 10 years.”

Kauffman graduated from Williamsport High School in 2009, and attended Lincolnshire Elementary and Springfield Middle schools. He is in his second year at the Washington County Job Development Program at Marshall Street School.

Two days a week, he goes to Washington County Technical High School for the Transition Skills program. He said he enjoys cooking and thinks he might like to get a job in the culinary field.

The Job Development program serves the vocational training needs of special-needs students ages 14 to 21 who are “getting ready to transition into the real world of work,” Principal Gael Butcher said.

Kauffman played piano for the school’s Literacy Night and Winter Fest last year, which included Job Development Program and Marshall Street School students.

His musical abilities took many by surprise.

“They were shocked. They were transfixed. They couldn’t even move,” Kauffman said of the audience’s reaction to his performances.

He said they all wanted to know how he learned to play and were surprised that he’d never taken a lesson.

Kauffman’s mother, Laura Howell, said her son started playing little songs on the piano and his repertoire kept expanding. He had a knack for being able to play a tune after he heard it, from popular music to church hymns.

He knows the names of the notes he plays, but doesn’t know how to read music.

Some of Kauffman’s favorite pieces to play include “Heaven is More than a Dream,” “Amazing Grace,” “O Holy Night,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and the wedding march.

“I’m a piano monster, using a talent from God. God said use a talent and look how it’s paying off,” said Kauffman, who occasionally plays at his church, Emmanuel Baptist Temple. He said the congregation’s applause after he played once brought tears to his eyes.

“He’s got talent,” said David Baker, Kauffman’s uncle.

Kauffman said he practices every night and gets engrossed in the music.

“Sometimes my mom tells me to turn it down,” he said.

“When he gets rockin’,” Howell said.

In addition to his love of music and his church, Kauffman, the youngest of three sons, enjoys watching NASCAR and WWE wrestling.

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