Whilst dodging post Christmas shoppers (myself included) hellbent on spending yet more money (likely on stuff they didn't need, with money they didn’t have just because it was labelled half price) I heard the dulcet tones of a piano being played. This was Cambridge, typically as with many University cities it possesses a rich musical culture – therefore it wasn’t a huge surprise to see a piano in situ for those with the inclination to hammer out a tune.
It was being played by a well-to-do chap in smart attire which was encapsulated by a full length tailored coat. Alongside was his equally impeccably dressed wife, who looked on with sense of arrogant pride as her ‘hubby’ tinkled away on the ivories. I take nothing away from his mastering of the piano (especially as I’m berthed of any musical skills) yet his talent was likely honed over many years, as the result of an above average upbringing bestowed upon him.
Now don't get me wrong, he's probably a nice chap and good to his mother. And I know I’m unashamedly judging on first impressions – an oxymoron when factoring in what 52/52 stands for. Yet in those few moments he did appear to be the kind of guy who’d, at any given opportunity, flaunt his privileged education, wax lyrical about how amazing he is whilst asking you to guess how much his bonus was. I stuck around for a few minutes and carried on my way.
An hour or so later and somewhat wearier it was time to retreat from the chaos. My route once again took me within earshot of the piano. Even from a distance, and above the incessant drone of chit-chat and footsteps, uplifting boogie woogie was resonating around the lofty atrium of the shopping centre. Despite it being a detour I was drawn towards seeing who was creating such music.
As I approached I could see nothing more than a light grey beanie hat protruding from above the upright piano and nodding in time to the music. I’m not exactly sure who I was expecting to find playing the piano, especially after the previous pianist I’d witnessed – yet it's safe to say I was surprised once I’d muscled my way through the small audience that had gathered.
Before me was, what many would deem, a ‘youth’ donning standard issue white adidas trainers, jeans, a black faux leather hoody and adorned on his forearm the obligatory mum and dad tattoo. The only giveaway to musical talent, if he were not commanding a piano, would be the discreet treble clef tattoo behind his left ear.
My timing wasn't brilliant. Moments later, in a bashful manner, he slid back the piano stool and stood up – seemingly trying not to court any further attention. Pretty much in unison myself and several others said “more” – he kindly obliged and returned to the piano to again hammer out tunes is his signature style.
Not only was his music amazing, but it also summed up to perfection what I was looking to achieve through 52/52 – namely people that, on face value, may not appear to warrant much attention but who possess interesting back stories or talents that often go unmentioned
He cut this encore short, likely because he knew he had an audience, but before he wandered off I wanted to know more – I found his persona and musical talent intriguing… the two halves certainly didn’t match up.
We swapped introductions and Jacob, in a reserved manner, gave me a quick overview of his life. I briefly explained the 52/52 project and that I’d very much like him to be involved. With that we exchanged contact details and agreed that we should arrange a time and place to meet as soon as possible.
So there you go, I kick off 52/52 with Jacob. Make of him what you will. Some might think his reactions in light of an ill thought through incident are full of cynicism – I disagree. What I’ve come to understand is that Jacob has fought adversity in many aspects of his life. He possesses a talent that others dream of attaining and just needs a break in life.