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Examiner
  • Frank Haight: Jacomo Chorale supporting pianist in cancer battle

  • Velma Tyson and the piano are inseparable – and have been since she was a little girl growing up on her parents’ farm in southwestern Kansas.

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  • Velma Tyson and the piano are inseparable – and have been since she was a little girl growing up on her parents’ farm in southwestern Kansas.
    As the oldest of six children – four girls and two boys – Velma’s role was that of a farmhand during her growing-up years.
    “I grew up during the field work and I loved it,” she says, adding: “I preferred the outside to the inside.”
    The piano, though, caught Velma’s eye as a 2-year-old when she walked up to the piano on which her mother was practicing, struck the keys and proclaimed, “My pano.”
    Enamored with the piano and the beautiful sounds emanating from it, Velma took her first lesson at age 8. She became hooked, and her life has been filled with music since.
    “There was never any question that my life would be anything other than music,” she says, noting she also took voice lessons in college and enjoyed singing in choirs.
    “But the piano is my forte. ... It’s my life,” says the professional pianist and longtime music teacher whose life was disrupted last November when she was diagnosed with a rare form of uterine cancer.
    “It’s very aggressive. It’s very high grade. It’s stage 3,” she says in a soft voice.
    But that was then.
    Following surgery last January, Velma received the best news ever: Her cancer had not spread to other organs. It had come out of her uterus and attached itself to a lymph node.
    Velma is very encouraged with the prognosis.
    “Everything was removed, so that means that hopefully (the surgeons) got everything. I am now in preventive treatment.”
    However, Velma isn’t out of the woods. After undergoing her third chemo treatment next month, she begins five weeks of radiation treatment, followed by three more cycles of chemo.
    To help defray the cost of Velma’s out-of-pocket medical expenses, The Jacomo Chorale, under the direction of Helena Vasconcellos, is presenting “Love That Heals,” a concert dedicated to Velma and all cancer survivors.
    The concert title, Velma says, came to her because of the love the choir demonstrated to her in such a tangible and beautiful way.
    “It was a love that heals, and comes with all God’s benefits as mentioned in Psalms 103: 1-5,” she says.
    The fundraiser begins at 5 p.m. Sunday, April 28, at Woods Chapel United Methodist Church, 4725 Lakewood Way, Lee’s Summit. For additional information, call Nancy White, Chorale manager, at 816-355-0114.
    Velma has left her musical imprint on the community she dearly loves, having taught private piano for about 50 years. She also is the pianist for The Jacomo Chorale, and for the past 32 years, she has been associated with the Messiah Festival Chorus in Independence as its accompanist.
    Page 2 of 2 - Her accolades go on and on. In addition to accompanying several classes at the Kansas City Ballet School, she is a contracted accompanist for the Music/Arts Institute in Independence. She also was the featured pianist for the 1985 Independence Concert Series and participated four years in the Multiple Piano Festival in Independence as a coach and teacher.
    Velma will be more than a spectator at the “Love That Heals” concert, which features both secular and sacred music. She is a participant, in that she selected the music for the program. She also will perform a piano duet with Chorale accompanist Michelle Camacho and a piano trio with featured instrumentalists, cellist Matt Chang and his sister, violinist Michelle Cease.
    Another concert highlight is the dedication of the song “Blessings” to Velma’s sister, Laura Pearce of Wichita, Kan., who is a cancer survivor and will be in attendance. This song, Velma says, was Laura’s favorite during her bout with cancer.
    The concert opens with Cole Porter’s “True Love” and closes with the hand-clapping spiritual, “He Never Failed Me Yet.”
    Other songs in the first half of the concert are “A Mountain Dance,” Bacharach’s “Look of Love,” George Gershwin’s “In Love” and Timothy Brown’s “Toccata.”
    The second half of the concert features songs composed by Independence composer and musician Dana Mengel. They include “Be Exhaulted,” “Lord, I Will Keep My Eyes On You,” “Oh, Sing Unto The Lord” and “Rejoice In The Lord.” Other songs include “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” and “Prayer of Saint Francis.”
    Says Velma: “I look forward to the concert with extreme joy, because I hope to encourage a lot of the cancer survivors as well as the people in attendance. I hope they will leave with something that will motivate them to a life of exuberant integrity.”
    Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at  816-350-6363.
     
     

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