Most 14-year-old boys spend a great deal of time at a keyboard. Daniel Souvigny is a typical young man in that respect; he too spends a great deal of time with a keyboard, only his keyboard of choice isn’t at a computer. It is the ivory keys of a piano where Daniel is most likely to be found.
Since the age of five, Daniel has been playing the piano. Today he is an accomplished musician and composer. This year he is once again, the youngest contracted performer at the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival.
“I really don’t think there is anything to slow him down,” said Daniel’s mother Vicki Souvigny. “Music is his everything.”
The bond between mother and son is extremely close and has deepened over the past year with the passing of Steve Souvigny, Vicki’s husband and Daniel’s father, after he fought a 30-year battle with multiple sclerosis.
“I got my love of music from my father,” Daniel said. “”We played duets all the time when I was little. He taught me how to play ragtime bass left-handed.”
From his mother, Daniel has been given his love of learning. She has been Daniel’s teacher since he was a young boy. Souvigny has always home-schooled Daniel. He is taught all academic disciplines and has recently begun to study computer programming.
It is because of their academic studies at home and when they travel, that Daniel can devote time to his performances and practice schedule.
Souvigny said he plays and studies the piano two and a half hours each day. In addition to his time spent at the keyboard, he also is a skilled violinist, guitar player and drummer.
He began his violin studies at the age of six and practices the instrument one hour each day.
“With what-ever time I have left after my piano and violin lessons, I play the drums and guitar,” Souvigny said. “I have taken formal lessons on all four of the instruments and I can’t say one is my favorite. I love them all.”
Souvigny has composed some original ragtime works and has two CD’s on the market. “Tearin’ Up the Keys,” was released in 2013 and “Possibilities” was released earlier this year.
“I sit down and start to improvise,” Souvigny said about composing original material. “Something will come out and then I just build on it. It may take me a couple of months to create a piece, less if I am particularly inspired,” he added.
A source of inspiration for Souvigny is the musical family he has developed with the other performers at the Scott Joplin Festival each year.
“We’re a rag-time group,” Souvigny said. “We all go to most of the same festivals and they (the other performers) have all taken me into their family.
“I have learned so much from them from my first time here: ideas and techniques,” he added. “Everyone is so open and willing to share. It has been a wonderful growing experience.”
One performer whose influence has been especially strong for Souvigny is Jeff Barnhart.
“Jeff has challenged and pushed me to a whole new level,” Souvigny said. “He will call me up on stage and we will improvise on pieces. It is great when that happens because that’s a time when I can really learn.”
Another factor in Souvigny’s musical development is his hearing.
“Daniel has amazing hearing,” Vicki Souvigny said. “He actually has pitch perfect hearing and can hear beyond what most people can hear. In fact, his hearing is too good and he hears things in a different way,” she added.
To compensate for his acute hearing, Souvigny wears devices in both ears to filter out the voice and bring the volume down so he can perform.
“I hear all the mistakes, probably ten times louder or more,” Souvigny said. “I cringe all the time at my own mistakes, I think that’s what makes me practice and perform so much. I don’t like making mistakes.”
Souvigny and his mother plan on returning to Sedalia for next year’s Joplin Festival.
“I just love coming here and being with others,” he added. “It’s extremely enjoyable and I love everything about ragtime.”