You’ve probably heard him on your way to class or while chatting with friends in Jazzman’s. Or, perhaps, you’re one of the people who stop and take a moment to listen to his music. But chances are, you know of Darren Abrahamson, a freshman who has caused quite a stir in the Fred Meyer Lounge this semester with his piano music.
“I used to practice in the music hall first semester,” Abrahamson said, “But one day, I came in the FML and saw there was a piano and thought, ‘maybe I’ll just play in here? What’s the point of doing something if no one can hear or see you do it?’”
Since then, Abrahamson has been sharing his music with Linfield students almost daily by playing the piano, a skill he learned in a class here on campus taught by Chris Engbretson, visiting assistant professor of music.
Chris taught Darren how to read music and apply it to the piano, teaching him the basics of the instrument. From there, Darren turned his attention toward more difficult pieces to play.
“I always play sad songs,” Abrahamson said. “It allows me time to think about things that bother me, and I can put that emotion into it, that sad emotion. Although, I can play ‘Whistle’ by Flo Rida. I guess it’s not that sad.”
A huge influence of his decision to play the piano was his mother, who had always encouraged him to learn how to play.
“She bought me a piano when I was 10, but I never had much interest in it,” Abrahamson said. “Once I came to college, though, I decided it was time to learn.”
The song that Abrahamson aspired to play when he first took up the instrument was “My Heart Will Go On,” from “Titanic.”
“It’s my favorite movie,” Abrahamson said. “I love those sappy, romantic movies, and it’s a really good song.”
But that’s not the only reason Abrahamson chose this song. Abrahamson, an only child, is the first member of his family to have not been born in Ireland, where not only film, but the history of the Titanic has a major cultural importance. The first time he played the song for his mother, there was no shortage of emotion.
“Since I’m an only child, and it’s a sad song, she got pretty emotional,” Abrahamson said. “She really liked it. Sometimes when I play her stuff, she cries.”
Something you may not know about Abrahamson is that he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease, when he was 6 years old. Now legally blind, he carries a cane with him always, and he is prepared for the moment when he will lose his sight completely.
“Around 19 or 20 is when it’s supposed to happen. One day, I’ll just be walking down the street, and it will go completely black,” Abrahamson said. “I try to practice everything I do with my eyes closed to prepare.”
With an eyesight now of 20/500, Abrahamson can see what he describes as a “world without details.”
“I can see what you can see, but not at the same time. Like I can see my hand,” Abrahamson said, holding his hand in front of his face. “But I can’t see any of the hair, any of the lines I know are there. And, I can’t see anything at night, which makes the frats really interesting.”
Learning to cope with his eyesight is something Abrahamson has done since he was 11, when it dropped to 20/300.
“I have a program on my computer that reads text to me, online textbooks and a camera that takes pictures of handouts and puts them on my computer,” Abrahamson said. “School won’t be a problem, it will just be more normal stuff, like playing volleyball, Frisbee or riding a bike. Which I shouldn’t be doing anyway. But hey, you can’t give everything up.”
Abrahamson has also practiced with the piano for when he can no longer see it. He is committed to making the piano something he continues to do for the rest of his life. While he doesn’t aspire to be a music major or play classical music, he says he loves relating to people through music. Next up for him, he might be learning another instrument.
“I’m going to try and learn a new instrument every year,” Abrahamson said. “Like maybe guitar or saxophone. I’ve always wanted to learn the saxophone. And then, I could take it outside and play. Sunlight is always best for my eyesight.”
Abrahamson also wants to encourage people to pursue playing an instrument, a skill which has brought him so much joy.
“I wouldn’t ever stop playing piano,” he said. “It’s something I think more people on campus should become involved in. Everyone always says ‘I want to learn how to play the piano,’ and I did this in six months so I think it’s something pretty much everyone can do. Just like anything else, you practice and you get good at it.”
Olivia Marovich/Staff writer
Olivia Marovich can be reached at email@example.com