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by Michael Sansolo

There’s probably no greater gift in life than getting to work at what you love. With the passing of jazz legend Dave Brubeck this week, I was reminded of how that kind of gift can even push back the hands of time.

In October of 2008, we were attending Parents Weekend for my son at the Eastman School of Music. There, at a special assembly, an honorary doctorate was conferred upon Brubeck, who clearly looked all of his nearly 88 years. That is, until he took a seat at the piano.

Suddenly he was a man transformed. The stooped, elderly gentleman, who just seconds earlier needed help getting to his seat on the stage, became the jazz giant yet again. The music flowed from the piano with energy and clarity. He played only briefly, but his music, his skill and his demeanor overwhelmed the room.

It was the kind of moment you can never forget. The wonder of seeing a legend perform combined with witnessing the joy of a person who spent his life doing exactly what he loved to do…and did it as well as anyone ever did.

It was an Eye-Opener.
KC's View:
Great story.

I think that this kind of creative awakening must be common among the truly talented. Michael's story reminded me of when I was in college in the mid-seventies, studying film at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

One night, the actor Edmund O'Brien was a guest. (We'd seen several movies in which he'd co-starred.) O'Brien was only in his early sixties, but he was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, and had trouble remembering anything and answering questions. Until there came a moment when the professor - a wonderful teacher named Mike Callahan - asked him if there was any role he would have liked to play but had not.

O'Brien's eyes came alive. "Lear," he said. And he got out of his chair and launched into a soliloquy from Shakespeare's "King Lear" that was utterly magnetic ... he was that old man for a few minutes, raging against age and circumstance in the Bard's words. And then, when the soliloquy was over, he sank back into his chair, the moment having passed.

I still get chills. Michael's is right - it was the kind of moment you can never forget, that moment when talent and inspiration take flight, ignoring the boundaries of age and illness.