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Local pianist lends his talents to charity
Local pianist Dennis Nunnelley


Nunnelley playing "Georgia on My Mind"


Nunnelley playing "Hit the Road, Jack"


Nunnelley playing "Somewhere over the Rainbow"

GAINESVILLE — Playing the piano to entertain — and for charity — is what Dennis Nunnelley does every day.

He began his music career at a young age in Jasper, Ala., playing the piano and picking on the banjo with his father and brother. Now, after years in the music business and stints with rock ‘n’ roll, jazz and country bands, he has released a self-titled CD and frequents local venues.

Locals can catch Nunnelley locally on March 8 at Grapes & Hops Bar & Bistro in Flowery Branch and at Nordstrom throughout the week at the Mall of Georgia in Buford.

"(At Grapes & Hops) I take requests if people ask, but you can only play what you know and I will play it if it fits the room," Nunnelley said. "About the only time that I don’t do a request is if it doesn’t fit the room, but then you can use the theory that you know so it will fit the room."

Nunnelley added that the gig at Nordstrom is "nice because you meet a lot of kids and that is a lot fun."

"It’s a great place to practice," he said. "Five hours a day for five years makes you a really good piano player."

And those skills are also highlighted on his current CD.

"Some of my students wanted me to finish this CD ... and I decided the nice thing to do was give the money away," said Nunnelley, who graduated from Auburn University with a degree in music theory and composition. "Well, you can’t give money away without paying taxes on it, and the only way I could do that was to have a nonprofit organization."

So the Hayden M. Nunnelley Foundation, named for Nunnelley’s father, was formed and provides money to local and national children’s charities.

Local charities such as Challenged Child and Gwinnett Children’s Shelter, along with larger organizations Feed the Children and Cure Childhood Cancer benefit from the CD sales and foundation fundraising.

Keith Gravenhorst, a Gainesville music producer, donated studio time to make sure the CD was released.

"He (Nunnelley) and I have done a lot of recordings together and we’ve co-produced a lot of albums," Gravenhorst said. "He’s vital in arrangements and production."

Bill Anderson, who is on the board of the foundation, also donated his photography time and shot the cover art of the CD for the cause.

"These are things that we never could have afforded (that) were donated," said Nunnelley, a 16-year resident of Sugar Hill.

The album features easy listening and jazz songs such as "Hit the Road, Jack," "Georgia on my Mind" and "Somewhere over the Rainbow."

"All of the songs on this CD have been recorded countless times, but every time you hear it, it is probably different because it’s improvised and done according to using your strengths," he said.