Madison Kommor’s piano career technically started the day he heard one of his fellow first graders play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and – envious – he rushed home to tell his parents he wanted to be able to make the same music come out of the instrument.
But if you ask the 17-year-old Louisville Collegiate School senior when he really began to play, he’ll look down at the floor as he smiles embarrassedly, take a deep breath and fidget around for a moment on the piano bench. He’ll then tell you he took lessons for many years before being “politely released” by Daniel Light, one of the area’s most preeminent piano teachers.
“He’s a big deal, one of the big dogs in the area. Mr. Light was a fantastic teacher; I was just not the most fantastic student,” said Madison, who went through a rebellious period in middle school. Instead of playing the music on the page during lessons, Madison recalled ignoring the instructions he was given and adding notes or making up endings that sounded “right” to him – better, even. He grew his hair long and steadfastly maintained he wanted to play the drums. Eventually, Mr. Light told Dr. Michael Kommor and his wife, Margie, that it’d be best to allow their son to focus his energy elsewhere.
“I understand why he “˜released’ me. I would have done the same thing,” Madison said., “But there’s no way I could be able to do what I do today without Mr. Light because he taught me the basics of piano. He taught me what is necessary to play this thing.”
Then, Madison began teaching himself. “I finally went back to the piano and started making mistakes.” Except instead of the notes being sour and wrong, they began to sound good., “I didn’t need anyone telling me that these aren’t the right notes, that I’m not staying on time,” he said. “It was so liberating to be able to play what and how I wanted to play.”
Soon, Madison was composing his own tunes, allowing the “emotion to come through my fingers,” in much the same way that Billy Joel – one of his favorite pianists – does. “I can play other people’s music, but it’s not going to feel anywhere close to what it does when I play mine. I close my eyes and just play. I have one core progression, I have one melody that is mine, and though it might sound the same to others, I could play it forever.”
After finding out he needed to earn an arts credit in order to graduate from Collegiate, Madison pleaded his case to school officials and was allowed to enroll in Chris Lerner’s strings class – even though he didn’t play a single strings instrument. Instead of joining his fellow musicians, Madison would be charged with composing. He recently played one of his own songs, “Crown Hall Sonata,” at a school concert and received a standing ovation. “I was – I am – embarrassed,” said Madison, blushing slightly. “It’s not about me. Life is not all about you, especially for a musician. It’s about your audience.”
It’s also about his fellow musicians. Collegiate’s strings orchestra will play “Crown Hall Sonata” during the school’s spring concert., “They’ll play it better than I can ever play it on the piano,” said Madison, who hopes he’ll be able to conduct the piece. “I’ll probably stand up there smiling, waving my hands around.”
Madison heads to Vanderbilt University next fall to study chemistry on the “pre-med path.” His music will continue to serve as a creative and emotional outlet. The lesson he’s learned throughout the past decade of playing the piano will, he’s sure, aid him in academic career – and beyond. “I can’t say I’m proud I got kicked out of piano lessons, but the beaten path is not the one you want to be on if you want to stay creative.”
Category: The Profile
About the Author (Author Profile)
Angie Fenton is Managing Editor of The Voice-Tribune, a Blue Equity company. She is also an entertainment correspondent for WHAS11′s new morning show, “Great Day Live!”, which debuted August 22 on Louisville’s ABC affiliate. Additionally, Angie is an entertainment correspondent for the Saturday Morning Show with Ron ‘n’ Mel Fisher on 84WHAS (840 AM) and has served in the same capacity for Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks; Breeders’ Cup; and Circuit of the Americas during the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix in November 2012. Angie also serves as an emcee, host, voiceover professional and on-camera commercial talent.
Angie has a bachelor’s and master’s in English from Central Michigan University and began her career as an adjunct professor at her alma mater. She is the youngest of five — four of whom were adopted, including Angie, and none of whom are biologically related. She is also a Michigan native who moved to Kentucky in June 2002. Angie is owned by two dogs — Herbie and Yoda — and feels lucky to have loved and been loved by many more, including Pooch, Jessie, Onyx, Jack and Big Bud, who took his last breath on Christmas Day 2012.