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Listening to Jos� C�ceres talk about the piano is like listening to a televangelist preach about God: He’s passionate, energetic, and full of devotion. “It was like seeing light,” he says describing the first time he heard piano music as a child growing up in Puerto Rico. “I knew right then and there that I wanted to learn how to play, and play beautifully.” By day, the 45-year-old is the business development coordinator for the D.C. office of the Bailey Law Group, planning events and meetings for the firm and figuring out ways to reach as many potential clients as possible. But by night, he is a concert pianist, well versed in masters such as Bach, Mozart, and Rachmaninoff. He was able to bring both worlds together last week when he gave a recital at the Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives for the firm’s clients and friends. C�ceres performed some of his favorite encores, including compositions by Chopin, Debussy, and Gershwin. He has helped the firm pull off some events in the past — such as the firm’s recent art exhibit held in its Washington office, showcasing the works of about 15 local artists — but it is on stage where he really shines, says Thomas Schumacher, his former professor at University of Maryland School of Music. “Stepping on stage surrounded by the lights and crowd’s applause is where Jos� is at his very best,” Schumacher says. “I think he is a natural-born performer. Some people need a crowd to be at their best, and it seems to be that way with him.” But it doesn’t come easy, C�ceres says. He goes through rituals before every performance. For example, he runs a mile and half “to get the juices flowing.” “People may say that they’re not nervous, but I’m sorry — that is a lie,” he says laughing. “You just have to control it and make the nerves work for you.” C�ceres says his two professions may seem poles apart in terms of ability and talent, but it is his creativity that makes him successful. “I try to find different ways of doing things,” he says. “I want to make it new, every day.” Every weekday he spends about eight hours at the firm and anywhere from four to six hours in front of the piano. If you throw in his daily exercise regimen, it translates to only a few hours of rest each night. But Bailey Law principal, Kathy Bailey, says that doesn’t stop C�ceres. She says he’s a ball of energy at the firm. “I think you can’t be an artist of any kind without possessing a creative and high-energy personality,” she says. “And he certainly brings that to work every day.” Bailey said she first heard C�ceres play the piano at a birthday party he threw for her at his Washington apartment. He started out by slowly playing the happy birthday song, but then he began switching gears. The result was a 12-minute happy birthday melody, in which he swept through several variations of the song, peppering it with the tango, “Stars and Stripes,” and Scott Joplin songs. “It was just amazing,” she says. “I knew he had a career in piano before coming to the firm, but to actually hear him play was something I’ll never forget.” Growing up in San Juan, C�ceres distinctly remembers hearing the piano for the first time. He was seven years old and at a party for his uncle in San Juan. The moment changed his course of life. From then on, C�ceres sought out everything he could about the piano. “Usually it’s the parents pushing the child to take lessons and learn how to play,” he says. “For me it was the exact opposite. I couldn’t get enough.” C�ceres might have a heavier workload now, but he’s still regularly playing live. He says the added responsibility isn’t going to slow him down any time soon. “There’s too much to do in life,” he says.
W.J. Hennigan can be contacted at [email protected].

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