FONT & AUDIO
TEN GRANDS, TWO HEARTS
- Jason Vondersmith
- Portland Tribune - Features
The Ten Grands piano concert will always hold a special place in the hearts of Mac and Hailey Potts.
Ten years ago, when romance clearly wasn't on their minds, they met.
Then Hailey Rowden, a 12-year-old pianist, and Mac, a 16-year-old musician, each served as lobby piano players before the main event.
"He stuck out his hand to shake mine," Hailey says. "I was so shy, I didn't shake it. Painfully shy. It was a teachable moment, though, because my dad said you have to shake hands when that happens."
One Ten Grands encounter led to others, as each moved on to being players among the 10 pianists on 10 grand pianos. Says Mac: "I saw her the next four years. She hardly talked. 'Hi Mac.' 'Hi Hailey.'"
Eventually, a joint piano practice happened, and then a date and courting.
And, today, Mac and Hailey are husband and wife, and expecting their first child. So, the Ten Grands, 7 p.m. Saturday, March 31, at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, promises to be a pretty fun night. Both will play in the concert, a fundraiser for Michael Allen Harrison's Snowman Foundation.
It's one of the rare times that they play together, actually. If they play together, it's usually Hailey on piano and Mac on saxophone and they're playing music written by her.
"We really are two different pianists," Hailey says.
"Occasionally I'll have her as a guest playing original songs, but we don't play much together," says Mac, an accomplished blind musician who has played the Waterfront Blues Festival for several years and other events. "Once she's out of school, we'll have some time to practice actual duets. We want to do some Disney stuff."
Hailey graduates from Clark College in June with degrees in fine arts and honors academics.
Hailey is now 22 and Mac is 26. They have their life plan set, and it centers on music. Hailey performs and teaches piano; Mac performs, and tunes and maintains pianos.
There'll be a third Potts in the picture in September.
"For both of us, we've always dreamed about having a family," Hailey says. "We're definitely excited."
Looking back, it wasn't music that bonded the two.
"We nerded over some music, but it was mostly books and food," Mac says. "We both like the beach, both like working with kids.
"We both like interesting kinds of music, but it's not music that we're connected over ... Hailey and I weren't in it for that."
Hailey grew up in Gresham and went the home-school route, while concentrating on the classical side of piano.
"It made for extra time to practice piano," she says. She began teaching piano at age 11.
She says that Harrison has made a big impact on her career.
"I'm so thankful for opportunities that he gave me," Hailey says. "I was pretty shy and reserved, and he helped me come out of my shell and give me confidence. I'm so thankful I had him as a teacher. It wasn't so much about technical aspects; he taught me how to play well and get the right notes. But he gave me appreciation of music."
She was on stage at Ten Grands at age 14.
Mac grew up in southwest Washington, and attended blind school and then mainstream Kalama schools.
Both of his parents were instrumental in exposing him to music.
The Potts were talking recently on their anniversary day about musical influences. Mac says an important moment was when he received the Michael Kaeshammer CD with "Boogie Woogie Stomp" and listened to the album incessantly. Kaeshammer has played at Ten Grands before.
"They were seeking a teacher who would teach blues. His parents had a difficult time finding a teacher; he was a talkative, energetic blind boy," Hailey says. "Mac was so determined to keep playing music, because it's what he likes to do, it's how he relates to people."
While Hailey is into classical music, "I play everything that isn't classical," Mac says.
Both of them really enjoy the Ten Grands event.
"It's kind of the magic of Ten Grands, from when it starts, through the show and after party," Mac says. "There's an excitement of being able to perform on a beautiful stage, the meeting of friends."
Mac says he'll always want to play piano and make music. He has been recording, working on his 11th CD, an album of Ed Sheeran covers.
He plays at quality restaurants and also plays at weddings, birthday parties and private events. After Ten Grands, he goes to New Orleans for gigs and the Jazz & Heritage Festival.
"We're hopefully raising children," he says. "We always joke that (music) will be the determining factor as to how many we'll have. We're not going to limit ourselves. We might want to adopt.
"We both come from a big family. I'm one of five (children), she's one of four."
Hailey says that junior college education for her and trade school for Mac will be ample for what they want to do.
They're learning enough through living.
Tickets ($25-$150) are still available for Ten Grands, 7 p.m. Saturday, March 31, at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway. For more: www.tengrands.com.