J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Chapter Excerpt “My Father’s Amazing Musical Life”

ImageAt the age of five, my father sat down to a piano and picked out a piece of music by ear.  He naturally had a gift and immediately became a child prodigy.  We have a copy of his Senior Recital.  It is insane to hear how talented he was at age eighteen.  

Insanely talented.  So talented that he eventually headed off to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.  He stayed there two years but returned because he wanted to get married to Mom.

Going forward, Sam could play any piece of music you put in front of him, he could pick anything out by ear, and he took great joy in teaching.  Throughout my entire childhood, Sam taught piano.  

He eventually designed his own method, created two piano books, and taught a host of kids how to play.  And out of his five kids, you know how many learned to play?  


One became a talented singer, two of us play drums, and I primarily play the guitar.  But none of us learned to read and play music.  

When I was seventeen, Sam gave me a very nice electric keyboard.  At that point, I was playing drums and guitar.  He said, “Listen, I know you aren’t going to take lessons, but can I show you just a few things on piano, and I bet you can play.”

With that simple approach, Sam showed me how to make majors, minors, and sevenths.  He taught me how to do that with sharps and flats, and even taught me how to create chords.  An hour later, he left the room, and I figured out how to plunk my way through the keyboard.

Looking back, that event amazes me.  I’m sure he wanted me to know the piano as he did, but Sam also knew my interests were different.  So he appealed to my personality, made both a financial and time investment, and taught me just enough to get me going.

I will never be a piano player like my Dad, but I can find what I need and muddle through if necessary.

Years later, when I brought my beautiful wife, Amy, to the house, Sam discovered that Amy was a brilliant pianist with over twelve years of experience.  Sam’s arthritis was setting in pretty badly then, but Amy and Sam sat down and played the piano together many times.

It gave me great joy.
It gave Sam greater joy.
Amy felt assured in the family and grew in affection for Sam.

Sam’s talent today, and the avenues available for making and performing music would more than likely lead him down the road of recording and being a popular musician.

Instead, he played, performed, and taught in anonymity.  But those who knew his talent were always amazed.

These and other stories can be found at



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March 5, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Really beautiful Gordon.

    Comment by Medra | March 5, 2013 | Reply

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