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Veteran finds balance with piano

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Chase Hammett performed his senior recital on Friday in front of friends and family to show how far he's come from the Air Force to now. 

A military veteran performed his senior piano recital Friday night at the McKnight Center for the Performing Arts.

Chase Hammett, 36, developed an interest in piano around the age of 15. Beethoven’s music was his first inspiration. He pursued piano lessons and quickly started winning competitions. After high school, he studied music at the University of North Texas.

A few years into the program, he decided to leave college and go into the Air Force. Hammett said he enjoyed the benefits of the military. He had a steady paycheck and got the chance to travel out of the country. But he spent most of his time at a desk, serving as part of the IT department. He had  little time to practice or take lessons. Often, he did not have access to a piano.

“Being in the Air Force… it paid the bills,” Hammett said, “But I kind of wanted my own thing, and I think piano is more beautiful than certain aspects of war. “

During the eight years of service, he discovered just how much he missed music.

Hammett reached out to Thomas Lanners, an OSU professor of piano just before he retired from service.

“He contacted me from South Korea, where he was stationed and said ‘I’m ready. I want to come back and I want to study with you and complete my bachelor’s degree.’” Lanners said.

Lanners and his wife, Heather, have worked with Hammett since he arrived at OSU about three years ago.

"His time in school has been good, Hammet said. It is difficult being a non-traditional student who has to work and support himself but he is now in his final year. This recital marks a milestone on the path from military to pianist."

Lanners describes Hammett as reserved, introverted and a terrific person. But he’s different on stage.

“He comes alive,” Lanners said. “You really find out what he is about. He’s also remarkable in that… he didn’t actually start playing the piano until he was, I think, 15, which is extraordinarily late. A lot of pianist will start at four, five, seven or eight.”

Hammett’s recital included works by composers J.S. Bach, Samuel Barber, W.A. Mozart and Franz Schubert. Hammett said the most difficult for him to play was Mozart because it must be played more precisely than some other music.

Hammett played for about an hour in front of family, friends and peers. The intimate audience appeared receptive to his performance.

Hammet said the future includes possibly opening a studio and teaching others to play.

Lanners said the support and appreciation for Hammett’s musicality was abundant as people gathered around him after the recital. His level of talent and journey were remarkable.

“He’s an extremely non-traditional student,” Lanners said.