It’s a musical debut a lifetime in the making for 70-year-old pianist Stan Wiest.
“I think this will be an inspiration, to show that you can start a brand new career at this age,” said the musician.
Wiest will present his first solo piano CD, Music to Drive By, at 4 p.m. on Sunday at Books & Books in Coral Gables
The discussion will include tales and anecdotes of sharing the stage with the likes of renowned musicians Victor Borge and Irving Caesar.
The musical event is also “the first in recent times” for the South Florida book retailer.
“For us this is relatively unusual,” said Joanna Clarke, consignment events coordinator at Books & Books.
The Coral Gables location features live music every Sunday, but those performances don’t include in-depth discussions.
“This is definitely unique,” said Clarke, “because we have a musician not only playing selections of his music but also presenting and discussing his music.”
The CD features 17 songs from the Great American Songbook, which encompasses songs made popular during the first half of the 20th century. Tracks on the CD include A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, What a Wonderful World, and Over the Rainbow.
Wiest aims to make difficult commutes more enjoyable with his Music to Drive By, which was released four months ago and is available for purchase on Amazon.com.
“A lot of people in New York and Los Angeles have said they are stuck in traffic and they play the CD to help get them through the drive,” he said.
The disc presentation on Sunday seeks to attract the older generations residing in Miami.
“Here in South Florida there’s a lot of things for young people to do,” said Clarke, “it’s nice to have an event that is specifically geared towards the older crowds.”
More than 14 percent of the population in Miami-Dade County is over 65, larger than the national average, according to census data.
“I thought this would be an inspiration for people in that age group,” said Wiest, “I’m going back to doing things I haven’t done since I was in my 20s.”
Wiest is returning from a hiatus that lasted over 30 years.
During his early years he had a lively musical career as a performer in various clubs and bars in Manhattan.
He has performed for big names like Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Barbara Walters, and the royal family of Sri Lanka.
He changed direction due to the demands that his schedule and travels were putting on his family. Since then he has managed a business out of New York that provides live acts for weddings and events.
Wiest will share anecdotes at the upcoming event, including how he came to own his most valued treasure: a grand piano originally owned by renowned pianist Eddy Duchin.
He impressed the piano’s previous owners after arriving to their house unannounced one morning. He asked to play the piano for just five minutes before its scheduled auction the following week.
“I played Eddy Duchin’s piano from nine in the morning to 11 o’clock at night,” said Wiest, “I had lunch and dinner with these people and they sat next to me the whole time.”
The owners offered to let Wiest have the prized instrument for $450 — his life’s savings at the time. They had planned to auction it off with a starting bid of $20,000.
Wiest plays some of the songs from his disc on the Duchin piano in a promotional video that will be shown at the Books & Books event.
A mystery benefactor, who has asked to remain anonymous, has funded the video and entire production of the disc, which has sold more than 1,000 copies so far.
The project came about after said benefactor asked Wiest to play a list of his wife’s favorite songs at her birthday party.
“Some of the songs I had never heard of, some had never been recorded or played in piano,” he said, “so I researched the music and arranged it on piano so that I could play this party for her.”
The client was so pleased with the result that he asked Wiest to record a CD to use as a gift for friends and family. He later proposed to distribute it commercially.
“I never expected this to happen,” said Wiest, a grandfather of four. “He said: ‘I’ve known you for so many years and it’s time you earned the recognition.’ ”
Wiest’s unusual story is what attracted Books & Books to host the event and carry his CD.
“We are encouraged to help people who don’t have huge publishers behind them or use non-traditional publishing methods,” said Clarke. “This was of the same sort, but music instead of books.”
Wiest is flying back to New York after the Coral Gables event for a full schedule of performances.
“This is such a thrill for me, I never expected to be traveling again,” said Wiest. “Now my wife is encouraging me to pursue the possibility of an European tour.”
The disc is the first volume of a planned series titled “Music you will Love.” Wiest expects to record the next volume in March 2014.