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John Bayless – One Hand One Heart – My Life and My Music


                                               Photo by Hugh Kretsthmer


John Bayless – One Hand One Heart – My Life and My Music


                    by:  Mary L Smith 


John Bayless returns to his beloved New York for the World Premier of his new show “One Hand One Heart” at Landmark On Main Street in Port Washington. John delivered a powerful, dynamic and thought-provoking performance. This one man show chronicles John’s memories of his formative years in Texas through today as a stroke survivor.


In Part I - we learn of his evolution from young prodigy to international music sensation. The audience meets John in what he referred to as Part II - the stroke survivor who fought his way back to take the stage Saturday night playing his beloved music with one hand. 


On Saturday evening John Bayless and his long-time collaborator Stewart Schulman brought to fruition a show that was a life-time in the making. Stewart and John’s first successful collaboration took place over 30 years ago. Stewart is a natural choice as a co-writer; he knows the emotional nuances of stage performance as a producer, director and independent filmmaker. “One Hand One Heart” is a nostalgic trip down memory lane discussing the life and times of one of today’s most influential pianists. 


As the curtain rose we were transported to 1980; Bayless and his audience relived his Carnegie Hall debut. As the video ended and the spotlight illuminated the stage, John delivered a heartfelt and emotional reaction as he shared memories of that fateful night in 2008 when he suffered a stroke and life as he knew it changed. This was an agonizing time; since his birth, music has shaped John’s life. John, the fighter, gradually regained his ability to speak and play his music. John’s ability to effectively engage each member of the audience was incredible! This is what we go to the theater for!  Thus began an unforgettable biographical conversation set to the music of John’s life. 


John’s life, like his music, is dynamic. This show provides a unique glimpse into the life of a young prodigy fulfilling his destiny. John’s monologues paint vivid memories of his early life in rural Texas. He fondly remembers his parents, siblings and his first church. We learned John’s mother was his first piano teacher and at the tender age of 4 he discovered his gift to play music by ear. We are introduced to the memorable church pianist chewing her gum and encouraging John to play music his way.


As John’s musical prowess develops he found himself crisscrossing the Great State of Texas sharing his musical abilities with the faithful of all denominations and religions. John’s extraordinary hard work and musical talent earned him entry into the prestigious Aspen School of Music at 15 years of age.


While he excelled musically, his transition from childhood to adulthood left him questioning his sexuality. John grew up in a time and place when society wasn’t ready to discuss the questions he had. His music provided comfort and consolation during this time of isolation and loneliness.


At 17 years of age John headed to Julliard to continue his studies; while attending master classes John’s talents in improvisation and composition impressed Leonard Bernstein and a lifelong friendship ensued. Throughout the years John has written and composed music for television shows, orchestras and sporting events. His music continues to touch countless lives.


Throughout the evening John pondered the answers to some of his life’s deepest questions. John asks “Why me?” when he discussed the loss of his husband Bruce Franchini who he referred to as his angel. He also discussed his journey from Christianity to Judaism as well as the challenges he faces as a stroke survivor. His monologues were honest, courageous and there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater.


Throughout the evening a series of monologues led Maestro Bayless back to his beloved piano performing such favorites as Fascinating Rhythms, Amazing Grace, Gabriel’s Oboe, Moon River-Rachmaninoff, just to name a few. The evening also provided John the opportunity to perform several original works including Bach Meets the Beatles, and Winter Tableau where he was joined by dancer Meredith Fages whose dance routine was choreographed by Heidi Latsky. He also welcomed special guest singer Mia Pinero to the stage who sang while he accompanied her on piano.


John shared the importance of his role as Artistic Director for the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition after suffering a stroke. He also described his role as a Yamaha Artist and played a rousing rendition of Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue. This performance allowed him to showcase the incredible technology he has helped Yamaha develop which essentially allowed him to perform with both hands. This amazing technology must be seen to be believed!


Fans and friends were thrilled to join John for his triumphant return to the stage. Anyone who has ever wished for an intimate and honest conversation with one of the great musicians of the world should add this show to their itinerary. It is my hope that this stage sensation will build momentum and theater goers, music lovers and anyone looking for an inspirational story will be able to experience this show in person. John’s greatest gift remains his ability to bring joy to an audience. Throughout the evening John reminds us to embrace the future and make the most of each day.


Additionally, John and his team are preparing for the release of his highly anticipated film documentary “Left Alone”. This unique theatrical experience will inspire everyone to fulfill their destiny whatever it may be.