Stanley Waters was walking down Southeast Belmont Street the other day when a young man stumbled out of a bar and froze. "Stanley!" he yelled.
When Stanley turned around, the man began to gush, amazed he had run into the 17-year-old pianist he'd just read about in Willamette Week. "It's you!" he stammered, saying something resembling a congratulations and handing over a card with his band's website, telling him to check them out.
Stanley is a bit shell-shocked. He never imagined he might be a cause celebre, but here he is—three weeks after a WW cover story ("Untapped Waters," Sept. 21, 2005) chronicled his life as an aspiring, self-taught pianist—awash in a sea of concert tickets, sheet music, letters, poems, even stares, all from complete strangers.
Every day brings new surprises. First it was Colin Fogarty at Oregon Public Broadcasting asking for a radio interview. (The story was aired Oct. 6 and is available at www.opb.org.) One Portlander offered up a box of sheet music and a metronome.
One man bought two tickets to Chopin's First Concerto, to be conducted by James DePreist at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Oct. 22. A woman invited Stanley to a performance of Chopin preludes at Portland State University: Stanley sat on the edge of his seat as the pianist plowed through the short pieces.
"It went by very fast," he says of the first recital he has ever attended, and demonstrates his pleasure by putting on his best engrossed face: slack jaw, wide eyes, general stupefaction.
To Stanley's amazement, the Stanley Waters Music Fund, which WW is administering, swelled in a matter of days from a few hundred dollars to $3,960 at presstime. Some of the money already is going toward an upcoming trial round of lessons with piano teacher Gloria Wiley.
Two-time Grammy winner Peter Boe, a blues/jazz pianist who used to play keyboard with the Robert Cray Band, has offered to work with Stanley pro bono in addition to the 20 students he currently teaches.
Meanwhile, WW reader Danielle Nelson and her husband volunteered their baby grand piano, "no strings attached," and four additional Portlanders called to donate upright pianos.
Stanley's Northeast Portland home is too small for a piano, but he is hoping to arrange to have the baby grand placed at the Matt Dishman Community Center just blocks from his house. And one of the uprights will probably end up at his grandmother's, which is nearby.
"If I was him, I'd be overwhelmed," says his grandmother Eadie Roland. "He knows that there are good people out there who care, that it's not all bad."
Stanley isn't worried about the challenges that surely lie ahead, nor the pressure of having so many people invest in his future, wanting updates and hoping for his success.
"To be honest, I actually hope it's challenging," he says of his future, "because everything I've done so far has been on my own and I'm ready to be challenged by someone else."
Contributions to the Stanley Waters Music Fund can be made at any Umpqua bank location.