Piano student Timothy Hawn puts love of music on display at concerts

Piano student Timothy Hawn puts love of music on display at concerts

December 20th, 2011 by Casey Phillips in Life Entertainment

Timothy Hawn, 12, regularly performs concerts in the area. He began his piano instruction at age 7 and within a year completed 10 levels of coursework.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

ABOUT HIM

* School: Sixth-grader at Bledsoe County Middle School.

* Favorite pianists: Beethoven, Jim Brickman and Harry Connick Jr.

* Favorite vocalists: Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Dean Martin.

* Favorite subject: World history.

* Pets: Four cats, Tinker Bell, Andy, Hermione and Ann.

* Dream job: Concert pianist.

CLAIM TO FAME

Since taking up the piano at age 7, Timothy Hawn, 12, has performed at dozens of regional events, including benefits, private events and paid concerts. He has played at Riverbend's Kids Talent Search Stage for three years and has taken home first place at two regional talent shows.

WATCH HIM PLAY

View more videos of Timothy Hawn's performances on his YouTube profile at www.youtube.com/MrPianoPrince.

TALENT SHOW

Do you know a child age 13 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? The Times Free Press is searching for children to feature in "Talent Show," which appears in the Life section on Tuesdays. To nominate a child as a possible subject of a future feature article, e-mail staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or call him at 423-757-6205.

When Timothy Hawn sits down at the piano, he judges his performance not on how masterfully his fingers follow the notes on the page but how well he conveys the emotion those notes imply.

Timothy, 12, said he sees each piece of music as both a challenge and a chance to get insight into the composer.

As part of his eight-month journey last year to memorize the notoriously difficult third movement of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," Timothy read books about the German composer. That knowledge gave him a new perspective on Beethoven's music and motivations, he said.

"I like how he puts all his emotion in the music," Timothy said as he sat next to his father and mother, all three wearing matching shirts covered in twisting and curving piano keys.

"I was so happy I could play [the piece]," he said. "It's just so emotional ... so drastic. It's really amazing."

The final movement of "Moonlight Sonata" is considered an advanced piece suited to players in high school or college. When he memorized it, Timothy was 11 and had been taking lessons for about four years.

His parents, Jill and Tim Hawn, of Pikeville, Tenn., said they recognized an aptitude for music in their son before he ever entered school. The clue? A game of charades.

Timothy, then 4 years old, was challenged with pantomiming Cruella de Vil, the puppy-hating villainess in Disney's "101 Dalmatians." Unsure of how else to clue his parents in, he went to the piano and performed her musical theme from the film entirely by memory.

In their shock, the Hawns said, they didn't know how to respond.

"We just sat there with our mouths open," Jill Hawn said. "He was upset with us. He said, 'You didn't know what it was?' We were just awestruck."

A relative suggested Timothy's parents immediately enroll him in a Kindermusik course. Three years later, he began taking piano lessons from Annetta Brewster-Deck at The Music Academy in Crossville, Tenn.

Almost immediately, Timothy's dedication, passion and ability to memorize pieces by ear set him apart from other students, Brewster-Deck said. Within a year, he had completed about 10 levels of student coursework, and Brewster-Deck advanced him to more challenging classical pieces.

"He seemed to eat, drink and sleep the piano," she said. "My other students like the piano, but it was different with him. He demonstrated an innate gift to learn quickly."

Despite his natural ability, Timothy has honed his skills through a rigorous training schedule. Brewster-Deck said she requires all her students to practice five times a week for 45 to 60 minutes. Timothy regularly practices much more.

While many children have to be forcibly led to a piano, Timothy's parents said they are often forced to pry his hands away from the instrument in the middle of the night.

"I used to think I was hearing it in my sleep, but my husband would say, 'No, he's in there playing,'" Jill Hawn said, laughing. "Many people say, 'What do you have to do to get him to practice?' and I say, 'I don't have to do anything. He wakes me up.'"

Although he is passionate about classical music, Timothy said he has a similar fondness for modern pop musicians such as Billy Joel and Jim Brickman. He also sings, citing Rat Pack artists such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin among his favorite vocalists.

Timothy has put his skills, classical and modern, on display many times. In the past five years, he's taken the stage about 60 times for performances ranging from walkathons and paid concerts to Riverbend, where he has performed on the Kids Talent Search Stage three years.

Even when he hasn't been officially booked for a concert, his playing often draws a crowd.

While visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Timothy's father secured permission for his son to play a Steinway grand piano made in the 1800s. The experience was revelatory.

"It was like a dream," Timothy said, sighing. "It just felt ... perfect."

Someday, Timothy said, he hopes to teach others to love the piano the way he does as a professor of music at a university or musical conservatory. With his level of potential, that dream is by no means out of reach, Brewster-Deck said.

"At an early age, I could tell that he was going to be topnotch," she said. "I could see him being Dr. Hawn, professor of piano. He has the will, the love and the want of it."