A young man sits on a stool behind an MOXF8 Yamaha electric piano, a microphone almost touching his lips. The delicious aroma of bananas and frozen confections from the Freeze Frame yogurt shop hangs in the air. He is playing “Take Me to the Moon,” a popular old tune by Frank Sinatra, and his voice is a pleasure to hear.
Two little girls in red dresses giggle as they run over from a nearby bench where their father sits. They drop dollar bills into the small bucket that sits in an open guitar case. The young man thanks them and the girls giggle again as they skip back to the bench. To their delight, he launches into a rendition of “Let It Go.”
The piano player, Joseph Alan Wilson, 29, is the youngest of four; his father is the administrative pastor for Edgewood Baptist church and his mother own a health business called Juice Plus. A native of Columbus, Wilson is actually a professional actor. He spends the off-season in Columbus, acting and playing piano.
In May, he will be leaving Columbus to act in a production of “Smoke on the Water” for the Cumberland County Playhouse in Crossville, Tennessee, which features southern gospel and bluegrass music, and a simultaneous production of “Beauty and the Beast” as a member of the ensemble cast. Wilson also plays guitar, upright bass, mandolin, and banjo–basically anything with strings–and he dances, the latter is a skill he learned in the theatre.
Unable to find sufficient work because of his short stay in Columbus, Wilson decided to try his luck downtown. The decision proved to be a good one though it comes with a small price. Today, Wilson complains of his throat being scratchy and says he did two weekend 8-hour sets back to back. Even though his voice is tired, he can’t stop himself from singing because he loves it so much. Wearing a blue beanie and a cream-colored, long-sleeved t-shirt with jeans, Wilson is as earnest as he is friendly. He honestly cares about making others happy and bringing people together.
“It’s good money and it’s been fun,” Wilson says. “I don’t want to stop, especially when people are dancing and singing. I never expected so many people to gather around.”
Wilson spent a year at Columbus State University in general studies. He then traveled to the Rocky Mountains where he attended the Montana Wilderness School of the Bible in Augusta, Montana. He found his enthusiasm for the outdoors during his stay there. After a year, Wilson traveled north to Saskatchewan, Canada, and spent four years earning a B.A. in Music at Briercrest Bible College.
“The two things I really enjoy,” Wilson says, “are playing my piano and riding my motorcycle.”
Locally, Wilson has performed at the Springer Opera House, acting in several parts for both “Mary Poppins” and “Shrek.” Describing himself as a typical “dueling piano player” and an entertainer, Wilson also performs at weddings and other events. He enjoys going to Jazz Night at The Loft when he has the time.
Wilson’s advice for anyone with a dream is: “Go for it. Do what you love to do and don’t let anyone stop you. I’ve sat behind too many desks. I’ve done the 9 to 5 and I hated it.” Wilson adds, “I’m doing what I love, people come around and we have a good time.”
As the sun begins to set, a crowd gathers, forming a semi-circle around Wilson. He is playing Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” and the happy crowd sings along. The show will end at 11 tonight and, if the weather permits, he will perform again tomorrow afternoon. He’ll try to rest his voice on Sunday.