The Reinvention of a Piano Prodigy

A true piano prodigy, debuting at Carnegie Hall at the age of 25, John Bayless spent his early years being mentored by and playing under giants of the arts community including Leonard Bernstein, Jule Styne, Arthur Laurents, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green, until a massive stroke at the age of 55 left him unable to use his right arm. Unsure how to proceed as a world-renowned concert pianist and composer, John was left emotionally adrift until timely collaborations opened up new opportunities, a renewed passion for the art form that shaped his life, and a return to the stage.

I move for my home state of Texas at 17 to go to the Juilliard School of Music in New York City by the age of 25 I had my debut concert at Carnegie Hall I had worked with Leonard Bernstein Julie Stein Arthur Lawrence Betty Comden and aid of green and tons of other major performing artists for 30 years I concert eyes around the world performing improvisational repertoire from my chart-topping hits Bach Meets The Beatles fuck on Abbey Road the Puccini album grandpa in 55 I had a stroke which took out my right arm and my right hand bedazzled after all those years I couldn't play I just didn't want to play anymore with one hand five fingers that's all I had to work with where we
go over there should have been walking out there I had yet another blow I lost my life partner of 27 years to cancer I was literally left all alone here it's like God took the light switch and turn it off was an incredibly dark period around this time I lost my great great friend Henry Steinway the great grandson of the original Steinway of Steinway pianos his family asked me to play at his memorial service so I thought well give me a day and I'm thinking about it it's like I heard Henry's voice in the back of my head saying get on with it get on with it the piece that are composed for Henry's service I called allergy I composed it for the left hand alone and it was the
first time I played on the stage in front of people after I had a stroke and that was a great day sad day but good that day also put an idea into my friend Bonnie Barrett's head bonnie is the head of yamaha orders she believed that Yamahas discs LaVere technology could make it possible for me to play again for me to be me again the very least he could record one hand to the disk levere and just simply play it back while he played the other hand that accompaniment for me it was just an incredibly emotional experience because it was John he was back both [Music]
the question is will I perform again in the library court again will I ever sound like I used to sounding like me or will I remain left all alone [Music]
so how did that feel that felt so much better ladies and gentlemen please welcome John Bayless thank you [Applause] I'm good I'm good John thank you very much thanks Niall I'm here and I'm scared you know all of the military and it freaked me out all but I don't know about you but I noticed in the the catalog that I'm the voice from the Arts
just just thought to ponder the National Endowment of the Arts receives less than 2% 100% of what the budget for the military is think about that but what happened if the arts have a little more we're just singing about that by listening to this the pieces I'm going to play for you today I want to briefly say this I bet I had two choices in life two choices it did a play or not to play and believe me there were many days that I didn't want to play one minute you can do in 10 seconds you can do everything you want to do with the piano and it's
gone that's exactly what I said in the video it's like God turn the light switch off nothing but I realized I don't have children and these pieces that I've worked on my local mall my life that I've played refined these pieces have given me joy pain service money pride how could I turn my back on my my children this is my family this is where I live this is where I breathe I'm gonna play three pieces for you today the first piece is aptly titled
imagine the John Lennon song for my first record mock meets the Beatles so imagine if you will what would your hon Sebastian walk do what imagine imagine there's no heaven that I don't know here we go [Music]
thank you bang hi rusty I can't see you like I want to see you I had the great honor and privilege of knowing Leonard Bernstein we were having the same birthday August 25th I met him on my
birthday he became my mentor my friend my musical godfather and he turned 100 years old this last summer I just want to play this timeless melody for my side story somewhere it's one of the most beautiful pieces ever written [Music]
thank you thank you I want to end my section today with one of the most beautiful powerful I used to I ain't my conscience with this most of the time the mighty and powerful Nessun Dorma you
like it's so great this was on my my food Cheney album and and this child I'm very proud of I'm proud of all of them but I especially like this Nessun Dorma [Music]
[Music] thank you thank you Wow
Wow thank you okay thank you thank you the most time [Applause]