Piano man uses musical talent to bring people together


Ryan Fang

Tad Arndt, freshman in LAS, rests on the grand piano in Lincoln Avenue Residence Hall. Arndt writes his own music and uses his compositions as a force of social change.

By Meral Aycicek, Staff writer

Gliding by on his longboard, Tad Arndt, freshman in LAS,  doesn’t stick out from the crowd. All of this changes, however, the moment Arndt sits behind a piano.

Known for playing publicly around campus, mainly at FAR, Bromley Hall and the Illini Union basement, Arndt has been slowly gaining attention for his musical gift.

Arndt started playing piano when he was 4 years old. He didn’t like playing until he was in eighth grade and only continued initially because of pressure from his mother.

“No one ever knew I played piano in my school because I didn’t like it and I didn’t really tell anyone about it,” Arndt said. “Then my friend told me I should play it for the talent show and I did. That’s when I realized that piano is a great thing as a social tool and is a good reflection of myself.”

Alex Sheehan, freshman in DGS, is Arndt’s close friend and fraternity brother.

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Sheehan first heard Arndt playing piano on a late September night at FAR.

He said Arndt is also very good on the guitar, bass guitar, ukulele, banjo, the drums and the xylophone.

“I’ve never asked him about piano specifically, but I know music has been a huge part of his life since he was a kid, whether that be percussion or string instruments,” Sheehan said. “I think that music is a way for him to express himself.”

To Arndt, piano is more than just a means of self-expression or something to pass the time.

“Honestly, if I could, I would dedicate my life to music and just become a rock star or something,” Arndt said. “I’m minoring in music with an emphasis on music composition. I would love to play in a rock band and tour one day. That’s the dream job.”

Piano has been a huge part of Arndt’s life, but playing publicly at the University has turned piano into a tool for social change.

Khadijah Coleman, freshman in ACES and current resident at FAR, compared Arndt to Billy Joel’s famous “Piano Man.”

“You know that song ‘Piano Man’ by Billy Joel, when he says, ‘Well we’re all in the mood for a melody, and you’ve got us feeling alright?’ When Tad plays the piano, it puts us all in a relaxed, chill mood,” Coleman said. “It brings everyone together. It makes us forget about an exam we may have failed or deadlines coming up.”

Coleman described the first night she heard Arndt playing at the Oglesby Hall lounge at FAR, and talked about how cool the experience was.

“We were all studying and enjoying each other’s company and he started playing an R&B, soul type song. And he had a friend come in and play the saxophone. It just got everyone dancing and laughing and it was just a really good vibe he created,” Coleman said.

Coleman said music is meant for everyone in society; it’s versatile, non-discriminatory and transcends race, religion and gender. She also claimed Arndt’s playing does more than just create an enjoyable environment.

“He was just a fly on the wall at first, and when he started playing everyone turned to look at him,” Coleman said.

Tad breaks down social barriers and stereotypes because even in FAR, which is a very segregated building, he showed that people from all races can come together and have fun through a language that is universal,” Coleman said.

For Arndt, playing is personal and special. He doesn’t consider it a social activity. It’s something he does for himself.

“Playing is literally like a drug in my mind,” Arndt said. “It’s a point where I can either just vent to the piano or just not think about anything else that’s going on and just be lost in playing. If I have the time I will play for hours and hours. It’s hard to walk away from.”

According to Coleman, Arndt isn’t completely unaware of the impact he is having.

“I think Tad plays piano because it’s simply what he loves to do. I do believe that he knows that he is making an impact on small pockets of the campus community, but that’s not why he plays,” Coleman said.

“It’s just what he loves to do. He doesn’t do it for recognition or praise.”

Sheehan and Coleman both believe Arndt has the potential to realize his dreams of becoming a successful musician.

Sheehan thinks that Arndt’s love for music and his minor in music will make him very successful, whether it be through the piano, or even another instrument.

“He certainly has potential to go far with music and he is obviously very talented,” Coleman said.

“He just has to keep nurturing it and sharing his talent with more people. If he puts himself out there and networks, he can definitely have a very successful career in music.”

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