When world-renowned pianist Spencer Myer performed at the Struthers Library Theatre, he wasn't just performing in a new location. He was paying a visit to a family homestead.
On Wednesday, Myer performed in the same building where his grandfather grew up.
"It was truly surreal to venture into Warren for the first time, having grown up with my father and grandmother telling stories," Myer said.
Times Observer photos by Brian Ferry
Pianist Spencer Myer
Myer's great-grandparents, Grampie Speed and Grammie Barbara, were Warren residents. "Spencer L. Myer and his wife Barbara raised my grandfather, Spencer Stuart Myer, in the upstairs apartment at the far end of the Struthers Library Theatre building," Myer said. "To play a concert mere footsteps away was truly magical."
The family was well connected in the community.
"My grandmother grew up there, the daughter of Merle and Mary Deardorff, and my father would visit with regularity," Myer said. "I always heard stories of what a charming man Merle was, friendly with everyone, as well as being a jack-of-all-trades. He was Superintendent of Schools, head of the Bank of Warren, and a choir director."
The piano, a common theme in the family, is one of Myer's father's childhood memories.
"My father remembers lying under the piano while Merle would play at home during the children's visits to Warren," he said.
Myer followed in his great-grandfather's footsteps. "My grandmother always says of all her grandchildren, I remind her the most of Merle, due to his love for music as well as his love for food," he said. "I felt honored to return to Warren as a professional musician, having been the first in my father's family to pursue music professionally, following a line of folks on both sides who had pursued music as a hobby."
"Warren was even more than I'd dreamed it would be," Myer said. "The preservation of - and reverence for - the town's history is unlike many historic U.S. towns I've visited in my travels as a performer."
"I felt like everyone around had some connection to an individual who was instrumental in the building of this great town, and many actually knew my ancestors," he said. "The buildings are a window into American history that could occupy me for days, weeks even."
No stranger to theaters, Myer sees some of them as pieces of history.
"I think old renovated movie houses are some of America's greatest treasures, and again, windows into our history," he said. "The Struthers Library Theatre is no exception. I loved stepping onto the stage and feeling the presence of those great artists, widely known and lesser known, who have graced that very stage."
Myer was also pleased with the instrument on which he performed. "I was thrilled to see that a town of Warren's size houses a Concert Grand Steinway piano in their theatre," he said. "It was an unexpected and pleasant surprise."
The performance meant more than a historic venue and a Steinway.
" My experience on stage with the warm energy from the audience of townspeople, combined with my experience of visiting various family landmarks and the grave of my great-grandparents, Merle and Mary, made for an unforgettable day in Warren for me," Myer said. "I look forward to returning as soon as possible, to visit and to share my music with the community once again."