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10-year-old tickles the ivories, hopefully on way to pro career
0613Jeff-pianist
Sean VanMeter, 10, flips the page of his music while performing before a puppet show Thursday as part of the Jefferson Public Library summer program at the Jefferson Civic Center. VanMeter has been playing the piano since he was 6 years old. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

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To hear Sean VanMeter play, visit his Web site at www.seanvanmeter.com. Sign his guest book; he promises to write back.

Like Schroeder from the classic "Peanuts" comic strip, most days you can Sean VanMeter sitting behind a piano playing his heart out.

Unlike the cartoon character, Sean is a real-life, pint-sized, piano-playing wiz kid.

At a time when he should have been more concerned with learning to count and recognize sight words, Sean was ready to take on a more challenging endeavor.

"I kept hearing music in my head, so one day I said ‘Lulu I want to learn how to play the piano,’" said Sean, a 10-year-old Jefferson resident.

Lulu White is Sean’s godmother. Like every good godmother, when a request was made, White tried her best to fulfill Sean’s wish. Unfortunately, at the time of the request, Sean was only 6 years old, so finding a piano teacher proved a bit difficult at first.

Some may call it divine intervention. Others may call it being in the right place at the right time. White calls it one of the best things to ever happen to Sean.

"There was a waitress at this restaurant where I would eat. She said that if I knew any little boys who wanted to learn how to play the piano that her son would give them lessons," White said. "She’s the most wonderful woman. I told her about Sean and she said, ‘You call my son and tell him I said for him to teach that boy how to play.’"

Enter Lee Davis, a music producer based out of Maysville and a classically trained pianist who started playing at the age of 5.

"I called him up and explained who I was and he said to bring Sean up. So we drive to Maysville and walk into this unbelievable recording studio," White said. "I looked at him and said, ‘You aren’t a piano teacher, are you?’ And he said, ‘No, but my mama said for me to do it.’

"That was the beginning of a very wonderful thing. Every week for the past four years, (Davis) has stopped whatever he is doing to give Sean his lesson."

So instead of watching cartoons, Sean, the son of Teresa and John VanMeter, is busy mastering masterpieces like Bach’s Minuet in G Major and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

"I’m still learning to play Chopin’s Ballade No. 1. It’s my favorite," said Sean. "I think Chopin’s music is very beautiful, but it’s also very technical. I like the way he put those two things together, and it’s a lot of fun to play his pieces."

Although he may be relatively unknown, Sean has been tied to some top billing talents and events. Last year, he opened a concert for Vince Ambrosetti, a performer who was invited to perform at the funeral Mass for Mother Theresa in Calcutta and performed for Pope John Paul II in 1988.

Sean also has performed at the Macon Cherry Blossom festival, area nursing homes and is currently the opening act for the Jefferson Public Library’s summer programs. His crowds have varied from a few dozen to a thousand.

He’s been saving money from performances to buy a baby grand piano — or a Steinway if he gets really lucky.

"I was a little nervous at first, but after you’ve been doing something for so long you get used to it. You become confident that you’ll do your job, so you just go up there and do it," said Sean. "I definitely want to do this for the rest of my life. I want to get a job as a pianist. That’s how I see it right now."

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