Augie pianist plays his way through the semester

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Chris Ferman

Sophomore John Flannery playing piano at the Denkmann Building on Friday, Nov 5, 2021.

John Flannery, Augustana sophomore and gifted pianist sits next to me at the brew. His bags have been thrown on the floor and chairs, prepared to go to his next event after just coming from his sophomore music jury.

He began to explain his love for piano and music composition. His voice carries a passionate tone as his hands gesture like the movements of playing piano.

Constantly busy with a double major in music performance and composition, Flannery also is involved in events all over the Quad Cities.

In recent weeks, Flannery has played in the St. Ambrose jazz concert, three children’s symphony productions, an orchestra concert in the Southeast Iowa Symphony Orchestra, and in a sophomore jury. On top of all his performances, he has been composing his own music for a student-directed play.

Music is an essential part of Flannery’s life and has been since he was ten years old.
“It’s just that it is part of my life. It does have a positive impact and it’s something that’s so important to me, but I’m so used to having it be a part of my life whether it just be practicing or listening to music,” Flannery said.

His passion for piano appears in his extensive involvement in performances as well as in his daily life.

When he began playing piano, Flannery’s talent was clear to those around him. Junior Gwen Flannery, his sister who plays oboe in the Augustana Symphonic Band, remembers him playing since a young age.

“I think it was sort of a hidden thing. So because we always had the piano in our house, we’d play around as kids,” she said. “But I think my mom could tell he had something more when he wanted to continue playing and trying to read music. I feel like she knew from that initial moment of interest.”

In most American schools, children can decide which, if any, instrument they want to play to learn the fundamentals of music in fifth grade. In Flannery’s case, piano became the perfect fit.

Not only does Flannery play music all the time, he also consumes his time by listening to music throughout his day.

“It does help keep me going, like a ‘cleanse the soul’ type of thing. I just find that listening to music constantly and listening to new things, exploring everywhere helps,” he said. “I listen to music wherever I am, wherever I’m going, whenever I have a free moment. If I involve my life in [music] so much, it just feels natural just to fully embrace it and not hold back, right?”

A confident energy radiates from Flannery as he describes performing in front of people on a regular basis. He explains how stage fright has never been a problem for him, even at ten years old when he began to play for others.

“I’ve always loved watching him perform because he gets into it. He really loves what he’s doing. And you can tell that just from sitting and watching,” his sister said.

Technical thoughts of performance run through Flannery’s head moments before playing, yet he continues to show confidence in his talent as he puts together notes and rhythms on the instrument.

“When I’m in the moment, that nervousness goes away. There’s always nerves there because you’re performing in front of people or judges, you know. You want to keep sure that you’re attentive. It’s always a good sign that you’re caring about it, because if you didn’t care there would be nothing,” Flannery said.

Flannery also composes his own music for various opportunities on campus. According to his sister, his composing also began at a young age.

Composing music is no small task. It requires knowledge of basic musicality and creativity to create pieces that work in terms of rhythm, note compatibility and stylistic qualities.

“He became interested in transcribing what he was hearing in TV shows and other things. From that point on, I think it sort of spurred his interest of ‘Oh, I can do something else.’ You know, ‘what can I put to paper?’ and I think it’s sort of grown from there,” his sister said.

As a sophomore, Flannery has the opportunity to continue playing piano in multiple ensembles and crafting his skills for the next two years. He is not sure what his future career will look like at the moment, but he plans to keep piano as a part of it.

Flannery has composed his very own music for a student-directed play Friday, Dec. 3 and will be performing with the Augustana Symphonic band on Saturday, November 13th at 7:00 pm in Centennial Hall. His sound design work can be heard at performances of Macbeth Nov. 11-14, his solo sophomore recital will take place in Ascension Chapel Dec. 4 at 7:30 pm.