One of ten featured artists from the annual Portland- and Seattle-based concert Ten Grand, will be performing at Bellevue Square next Monday, Feb. 29.
Mac Potts, 24, who was born blind, has been playing piano since he was two-years-old, although he said he doesn’t remember his first hit, Mary Had a Little Lamb.
Unlike many pianists who learn to play by reading music, Potts couldn’t rely on sight so he learned in the Japanese Suzuki method which is a method of teaching music conceived and executed by Japanese violinist and pedagogue Shinichi Suzuki. Suzuki believed that all people are capable of learning from their environment.
“You do eventually learn to read music, but they start you before you can even read,” Potts said. “You are playing by listening, memorizing it, and being shown how to play the notes. That is how they do it.”
During his young career, Potts has studied under D.K. Stewart and the late Janice Scroggins to learn blues and boogie woogie and he has played with notable artists like: Charmaine Neville, Marcia Ball, Dr. John, Henry Butler, Mitch Woods, the Storyville Stompers and Harry Connick Jr.
In 2005, 13-year-old Potts attended his first Ten Grand concert where he said he seized an opportunity by filing a void.
“I went with a friend of mine, we were kind of just standing around in the lobby,” Potts said. “One of the kids asked me if I was a musician, a piano player, he told me it could be my turn next. I didn’t know what he meant, so I got on the piano and I played a few boogie woogie pieces I was working on and everybody went crazy.”
Potts said he kept going to the event each year and playing if there was a lull until he was invited back to participate.
“In the two years after that I did the same thing where I was invited to the reception and I would stand around and if there was nobody there I would jump on the piano and play a couple songs,” Potts said. “I wasn’t officially on the list, so they finally had enough and said they were going to put me on the list because it was getting out of hand so I could play in the lobby and not make anybody jealous.”
Now, one of the ten featured artists of Ten Grand, Potts will be touring the Eastside in an effort to help promote the May 14th Ten Grands Seattle benefit concert at Benaroya Hall.
In addition to his performance at Bellevue Square, Potts also be spending his week playing at small venues with friends and tuning pianos at Northwest Pianos in Bellevue and in private homes across the region.
“The piano tunings are what makes me money on these trips. I have five or six of them lined up plus the Northwest Pianos,” Potts said.
Potts says that this time of year is the best time of year to tune pianos in the Pacific Northwest due to the elevated humidity.
“The temperature matters to a certain extent, but temp doesn’t matter as much as the humidity changing, so if it’s dry out the piano is going to go flat,” Potts said. “If you try to tune it when it’s dry and then it gets humid all that stuff that would go flat is going to go sharp.”
If you are in dire need of a piano tune, Potts said he might be able to squeeze in a few more appointments during his week-long trip to the Eastside, visit his Facebook page for availability. Potts is scheduled to perform on Monday from noon until 4 p.m. on the second level of Bellevue Square.