Colaner plays on the piano at Saint Sebastian Catholic Church in Akron, Ohio. Photos: TNS
New York City rolled out the red carpet for 12-year-old musician Daniel Colaner for a Carnegie Hall debut that the Akron boy will never forget.
The piano and organ prodigy and his parents, Dan and Marie, were surprised by all the media attention Daniel started to receive the day after Thanksgiving, when the Akron Beacon Journal’s story about Daniel, a survivor of Stage 4 neuroblastoma who was preparing to play at Carnegie Hall in the Big Apple, was picked up by the national press.
Daniel, who turned 13 on Dec 4, and has been in remission for nearly 12 years, saw his story snowball by the time he got to New York. First, a News Channel 5 Cleveland camera crew came to his organ lesson at St. Sebastian Church in Akron to do a segment.
“I was kinda like, OK, what just happened here? I was kind of confused (about) what was going on. But it was exciting, definitely,” Daniel, who is home-schooled, said from home.
Also, ABC’s World News Tonight contacted dad Dan, requesting to cover his Carnegie Hall performance in New York and interview him before and after. That same afternoon, ABC’s Good Morning America did a Skype interview with Daniel in his Akron living room.
All of this happened as Daniel was packing to travel and practicing to play at one of the most famous performance venues in the world. He won third place in his age division in the American Protege International Piano and Strings Competition to earn his spot in the Carnegie Hall recital Sunday.
When the Colaners arrived in New York, Daniel practiced his Chopin Fantasie-Impromptu in a rented rehearsal studio and then the family had dinner at their hotel. When the waiter saw them watching Daniel on Good Morning America on their phone, he was so happy for the celebrity in his midst, he ordered the family desserts on the house.
The next morning, World News Tonight interviewed Daniel inside Weill Recital Hall before the recital, shot his performance, and interviewed the family in the lobby for their night broadcast. That story went viral on Facebook; it was viewed nearly 750,000 times.
Daniel said the media attention before his Carnegie Hall performance was both exhilarating and a little nerve-wracking. But he didn’t show one trace of nerves on camera.
A closeup shot of Colaner doing his magic.
“He really amazed us taking it in stride,” Marie said of her son, who was visiting New York for the first time.
“That was my best performance ever of that piece,” Daniel reported. “I was just so focused on the music at that moment, everything else was completely out of my mind.”
The pre-teen prodigy reveled in his recital experience: “Everything was just amazing at Carnegie Hall. The piano was incredible. The acoustic was beautiful.”
The media buzz continued. Someone on the street in front of Carnegie Hall stopped Daniel and said, “I saw you on Good Morning America!”
Daniel also got to play the magnificent organ at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which he described as a “dream come true.” And things just kept getting better: Daniel Brandel, one of the cathedral’s music directors, invited the Akron boy to come back and play a concert there when he’s ready.
Dad Dan envisions that happening within a year, as Daniel continues to build up his concert organ repertoire with one of his teachers, David Higgs at Eastman School of Music.
The fun didn’t stop there. Daniel made a live appearance on Good Morning America at its Times Square Studios. The show rented him a piano to play his Chopin piece and sent a limousine to pick Daniel and his parents up.
Host George Stephanopolous interviewed Daniel and his parents live, and members of the audience asked for the boy’s photo afterward.
“I don’t know if I wanted to be a celebrity but it just kind of happened,” Daniel said.
Now, the family is fielding calls from talk shows. But their biggest priority is to focus on their life in Akron as well as Daniel’s health and continued pursuit of musical excellence.
The Colaners, who are devout Catholics, are grateful that their story of hope and faith has resonated with readers and viewers across the country.
Their son’s surprisingly intense media coverage brought up many emotions related to his early fight against cancer as well as the blessing that music has been in his life.
“Every time he’s able to do something, that just reminds us of how incredibly blessed we’ve been from the care that he got” at Akron Children’s Hospital, Marie said. “The fact that he can even do what he does, in spite of everything, it’s an overwhelming emotion.” – Akron Beacon Journal/Tribune News Service