Written by Linda Delmonico Prussen Saturday, 18 January 2014 00:00
How does a young boy with an unmitigated hatred for piano end up spending the greater portion of his life playing alongside legendary musical acts and releasing a hit CD? It’s all about motivation.
Thinking about incentives to inspire your children to take their piano lessons more seriously? Renowned Long Island musician Stan Wiest, formerly of Levittown, recalled what did and didn’t work when his parents faced the same task. Wiest said, “If I didn’t practice on Monday all I was given for dinner was a plate of broccoli. Tuesday was cauliflower. Wednesday lima beans. Thursday spinach. And the weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, was the leftovers.” And Wiest added, “There were a lot of leftovers.” This tactic did not work. In fact, according to Wiest, it ended up spurring young Stan to carve, “I hate piano,” into his piano, and subsequently having difficulty playing piano in the seated position for some time.
All you need is…
Betty Ann Meyers changed all that. Six foot two, blonde and beautiful, she was Stan’s seventh grade piano teacher. Stan had finally found inspiration. She told him, “I want you to practice a lot for me.” He asked, “How much is a lot?” Meyers said, “I’ll let you decide that.” Stan decided six hours a day during the school year and nearly ten hours a day during the summer fit the bill and by the time he was ready to graduate from high school he was on his way to Hofstra on a full classical piano scholarship. Wiest also credits Meyers for introducing him to opera and for awakening his appreciation for Mozart.
While a crush may have inspired him to find his love of music, his music helped him later to find love. While teaching a choral program in South Huntington a pretty young colleague asked him if he’d like to go out for a drink. Wiest thought she was wearing a wedding band and asked, “How would your husband feel about that?” Turned out it was a college ring and there was no husband. He said, “Rather than a drink why don’t you come to my house Thursday? I’m having a party.” She said yes. Wiest then had to invite friends to feign a party. Wiest followed Thursday’s faux party with a real date on his boat that Sunday. After a trip to Connecticut for lunch, while coming back on the Long Island Sound, he stopped his boat and proposed. She said yes, but it turned out though there wasn’t a husband, there was, unfortunately, a fiancé. Stan said that wasn’t a problem. He called her fiancé and ended their engagement. Within three months they were married and Stan and Diane Wiest have now celebrate 47 years of marriage, and have two daughters, Alanna and Brit, and four grandchildren.
Wiest was born in New York City on August 23, 1943 and raised in Brooklyn until he was six when he moved out to Long Island. Before settling in Fort Salonga he lived in Huntington, Hicksville, Woodbury and Levittown, where he built a piano studio he taught in from 1968 until 1976. Wiest said he loved teaching, but was playing nightly in Manhattan and had begun a rigorous touring schedule so he had to give it up.
Wiest has been fortunate to play with and for luminaries such as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Victor Borge, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Frankie Lymon and distinguished lyricist Irving Caesar.
Long and winding road…
Wiest’s journey is continuing now with the production of his first CD, again inspired by love. “Music to Drive By,” volume one in, “Music you will love,” is a top-selling album on Amazon.com. A friend, who Wiest refuses to name, asked that he record songs as a gift for his wife’s birthday. The eight hour recording session was grueling. Wiest preferred the music to have a live sound, as though the piano was in your living room, not a studio. That meant no dubbing and that if a mistake was made he started again, from the beginning. But the result was so successful the gentleman wanted to produce it commercially. Cuts from the album can be found at www.music-you-will-love.com.
With a new CD released and a few upcoming concert dates in May, one in the Adirondacks, another in Huntington, one might wonder what other sights Wiest has on his horizon. He said in the near future, “I would love to do a European concert tour.”
Wiest also has an extensive music company available for weddings and other events. For info visit www.stanwiest.com.