Welcome to my website! My name is Jon-Michael, and I was born and raised in Birmingham, AL. I am an accountant, professional pianist, YouTuber, blogger, motivational speaker, church pianist, adjunct professor, and founder of a foundation aimed at enriching the lives of people with dwarfism.
I am a people person, thoroughly enjoying time traveling, spending time with family and trying out the newest restaurants. My music career has taken me all around the country, and thanks to iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music, my music is also enjoyed in over 150 countries every single month! I am incredibly blessed enough to do all of this by the age of 38, while standing only 3’8” tall. I have quite a story to tell, and I'm honored and humbled that you're wanting to hear more about it.
Discovering My Gift
I started playing the piano at the age of three, which actually was before I learned how to walk. My brother placed me on the piano bench after finding me in the piano room, and I was able to start playing chords. The day after my fourth birthday, I began taking lessons at Samford University, which is where I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees (in accounting) and where I would return to teach Personal Finance as an adjunct professor.
I never excelled at reading sheet music. I would listen to my piano teacher play what was on the page and then use my ability to play by ear to learn the song, rather than read the sheet music. I did not have pedal extensions at the time, so I had to sustain the notes with my fingers rather than a sustain pedal. Also, my hands are too small to reach an octave or more, so what I played never sounded exactly the way it should have. I was able to quit lessons after ten years, which ironically is where my love for piano really took off.
My gift is so much more than simply "playing by ear." It's actually got a name. Synesthesia. Essentially, it's when something is meant to be interpreted by one sense, but an unintentional sense ends up interpreting it. In my case, when I "Hear" a song, I "See" numbers in my head. I can almost immediately dissect the song and see the framework of how it was written. Within seconds, I'm able to then put all of the pieces back together, but in a template I've created over the years (otherwise known as musical "style"). How this works practically, is I can hear a song for the first time. By the end of the song, I can go the piano and play it recognizably well. If I hear it a second time, I can fill in the gaps I didn't pay attention to the first time and have a full-blown arrangement. The closest example I can think of is similar to filling out a form. My gift is the form itself and the ability to fill it out. Upon listening to a song, I fill in the form. Once the song is over, I can simply read the filled out form, and in this case, play the song arranged in real-time.
In fact every time I sit at the piano I am arranging whatever song I'm playing in real-time. I haven't "memorized" anything or learned anything by sheet music. I just have the ability to remember how the original song went, and then I can do whatever I want to with it. I can play close to 1,000 songs on demand, and I'm trying to learn more and more every week.
Beginning My Career
I began building my repertoire of songs that I learned entirely by ear, as well as developing my own style of music, where my hand size was not holding me back. At the age of 18, I began playing professionally at a restaurant and then a country club, where I still play weekly today. In my younger days, I would play the piano four to six nights per week, but as my day job provided more income, I was able to be more selective about the gigs that I took.
I released my first album at the age of 18, and twenty years later I've released ten more. It has been fascinating to see the industry evolve from physical CD's to Downloads to streaming. In 2012 I put together a tour featuring the songs from my second hymns album entitled "My Story My Song." This ultimately led to me developing my annual regional Christmas concert tour and tremendously helped me hone in my speaking skills. With my primary job being an accountant, I always felt like I lived two completely separate lives. One by day, and then another by night. But little did I know how amazingly these lives would converge.
Continuing My Career
Thankfully, I'm blessed with a great day job, so I do not HAVE to play the piano to pay the bills. I get to unwind and relax when I play the piano. It's a way that I can release all of the stress in my life. I am putting forth a lot resources into two places: Digital Presence and Speaking Engagements
For my digital presence, I'm uploading multiple YouTube cover videos each week. I'm also going live on twitch each week. I'm releasing new sheet music each month. I'm releasing new digital-only albums each year. Working in tandem with social media, this has been a fun hobby to watch all of these seemingly unconnected side hustles converge into improving my online offerings to my fans.
For Speaking Engagements, I have packaged my story together in a way that can be used to equip, educate and encourage the audience, motivating them to overcome the adversity in their lives and to be kind. I particularly love these events, because I'm able to use all of my gifts together in one 45-minute to an hour long talk. I have been tremendously blessed to be well-received and am turning down more events that I am able to accept. These first 20 years have led me to places I never though possible, and it's incredibly exciting to think about the places I'll be going in the next 20 years of my career!