It’s the kind of high-caliber performance you might usually see at the Seattle Symphony or on an even bigger stage. Yet the show put on Wednesday night took place inside a retirement home.
Randolph Hokanson is a world renowned pianist. He also happens to be a resident at a retirement community in Seattle.
“He’s very gifted. He studied with many famous people especially in the 1930s,” said Duane Funderburk, who studied under Hokanson himself. “I keep studying with him as much as I can.”
Funderburk was just one of many people who packed into a concert hall Wednesday afternoon to hear Hokanson perform.
“There was a full house. It was amazing,” said Hokanson. “I didn’t know I had that many friends.”
With each stroke of the keys, Hokanson has the unique ability to make his friends and fellow residents feel young again. Many in the crowd tapped their feet and bobbed their heads to the music.
Watch the video above to see this 100-year-old in his piano-playing groove.
“It’s sensational,” said Stuart Baker. “It makes me cry. It just makes the tears flow.”
No tears from Hokanson, though, who says he’s thrilled to still be playing the piano after marking a big milestone Monday.
“Yep! Yep! I was a hundred on Monday,” he said. “My birthday was on the 22nd.”
After 100 years spent making music and living life, we had to ask Hokanson about his secret to longevity. He says the piano definitely has something to do with it.
“You just keep doing what you love to do. That’s all. It’s very simple,” he said. “Anybody who has a great passion and can’t live without it, I think that helps you live. I think it keeps you well and happy and busy. It certainly has kept me busy.”
In addition to his career as a pianist, Hokanson also spent 35 years teaching music at the University of Washington. In more recent years, he divides his time between playing music and composing music and says he doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.
“It’s really an inspiration to all of us who know him,” said Funderbunk.
• 1943 ~ Roger Ruskin Spear, English saxophonist, kazoo with The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
• 1945 ~ Little Eva (Boyd), Singer
• 1946 ~ “Are You with It?” closed at Century Theater New York City after 264 performances
• 1946 ~ “Billion Dollar Baby” closed at Alvin Theater New York City after 219 performances
• 1948 ~ Ian Paice, Musician, drums with Paice Ashton Lord
• 1953 ~ Jules van Nuffel, Composer, died at the age of 70
• 1955 ~ Bill Haley and His Comets reached the top of the pop music charts with RockAround the Clock. The smash hit stayed there for eight straight weeks. The song was featured in the film Blackboard Jungle. Most consider the hit song the first rock ’n’ roll single.
• 1963 ~ “Little Me” closed at Lunt-Fontanne Theater New York City after 257 performances
• 1963 ~ The Beatles’ 1st song From Me to You hits UK charts
• 1969 ~ Shorty Long, Soul singer and pianist, died at the age of 29
• 1969 ~ Vesselin Stoyanov, Composer, died at the age of 67
• 1970 ~ NBC presented an evening of exciting and entertaining TV with the award-winning Liza Minelli Special.
• 1980 ~ “Sweeney Todd” closed at Uris Theater New York City after 557 performances
• 1984 ~ Singer Bruce Springsteen kicked off his first U.S. tour in three years, before 17,700 fans at the Civic Center in St. Paul, MN. Music critics called the Boss, “the most exciting performer in rock.”
• 1992 ~ “Salome” opened at Circle in Sq Theater New York City for 9 performances
• 1994 ~ Kurt Eichhorn, Conductor, died at the age of 85
• 1994 ~ Ray Crane, Trumpeter, died at the age of 63
• 2001 ~ Kimo Wilder McVay, a veteran talent agent who promoted singer Don Ho into an international star, died at the age of 73. McVay introduced Ho, known for his song Tiny Bubbles, to tourist audiences in the 1960s at his Duke Kahanamoku’s nightclub in Waikiki. He represented Hawaii’s top talents in an up-and-down career that spanned nearly five decades, but slowed his work when diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago. McVay was the son of Navy Capt. Charles B. McVay III, who was found guilty at a court martial trial of failing to steer a zigzag course to evade a Japanese submarine that sank the USS Indianapolis in 1945. The younger McVay’s years of trying to clear his father’s name resulted in congressional action last year to exonerate the Indianapolis’ skipper, who committed suicide in 1968.
• 2002 ~ Rosemary Clooney, the mellow-voiced singer who co-starred with Bing Crosby in “White Christmas” and staged a dramatic comeback after her career was nearly destroyed by drugs and alcohol, died. She was 74. Clooney soared to fame with her 1951 record of Come on-a My House, and became a star in television and films. Her career was sidelined by her marriage to Oscar- winning actor Jose Ferrer and the births of their five children. The pair divorced, and her attempts to return to performing were sabotaged by her erratic behavior. Having undergone a series of emotional upsets – she was devastated by Martin Luther King’s assassination, and was present in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when Robert F. Kennedy was shot – the blond singer had a breakdown during a 1968 engagement in Reno. She underwent harrowing confinement in a psychotic ward, then began rebuilding her life, gradually resuming her career and reaching new heights as a singer. She performed a concert with Crosby in the Christmas of 1975 at the Los Angeles Music Center, and the pair continued on to Chicago, New York and London. Clooney won a new record contract, and singing dates poured in. In 1995, she received an Emmy Award nomination for guest actress in a drama series for her role on “ER” with her nephew, actor George Clooney. He is the son of her brother, former television news anchor Nick Clooney. In 1996, Clooney married Hollywood dancer Dante DiPaolo.
• 2002 ~ Edmund Anderson, a former stock broker and producer who was close friends with musician Duke Ellington, died. He was 89. Anderson and Ellington met in 1936 and remained friends until Ellington’s death in 1974. Anderson was said to have pressed Ellington to perform at Carnegie Hall, which he did for the first time in 1943. Anderson worked for his father’s brokerage, Anderson & Company, but had a strong interest in music and also produced broadcasts for radio, including a program known as “The Edgar Bergen-Charlie McCarthy Show.” He also composed music, including the love song Flamingo, written in collaboration with Ted Grouya and recorded by Ellington and his band.