Gateway: Living

Gig Harbor pianist shares lifetime of music

Jean Balman plays piano for residents at Kensington Gardens Estate in Gig Harbor on Friday.
Jean Balman plays piano for residents at Kensington Gardens Estate in Gig Harbor on Friday. jbessex@gateline.com

Gig Harbor resident Jean Balman brings a lifetime of music to residents of Gig Harbor with her “easy listening” piano music.

Balman began playing at age 5 when her grandmother gifted her a piano, which she still has.

Now age 83, and with the piano celebrating its 100th birthday, Balman has been playing ever since, bringing her nearly 80 years of experience to local music lovers.

“I love doing it,” she said. “I never dreamed when I was much younger that I would actually be paid for (playing) at some point.”

I love doing it. I never dreamed when I was much younger that I would actually be paid for (playing) at some point.

Jean Balman

Balman has a wide range of experience, with gigs ranging from Sunday school at age 9 to friends’ weddings in high school. She even played background music at a upscale grocery store in Lakewood for several years, working in five-hour shifts with several other pianists.

While she can read music, she prefers to play by ear, committing her songs to memory.

“If I heard something familiar I can play it by ear,” she said. “I try to put everything to memory.”

Balman is a regular performer at Kensington Gardens and has performed previously at The Lodge at Mallards Landing, Memory Wellness and Peninsula Retirement.

If I heard something familiar I can play it by ear. I try to put everything to memory.

Balman

“When you play almost every day for almost two years, you get better,” she said with a laugh.

While not performing, Balman fills her time with a variety of hobbies and pastimes ranging from writing to building design.

“I play around with a lot of different things,” she said. “I write poetry and I’ve self published a couple of books. (I’ve also) designed buildings, and I’ve designed my home.”

Her self-published books include a book of cartoons and a religious book of poetry.

Balman can be reached for events at jbalman@comcast.net.

Andrea Haffly: 253-358-4155, @gateway_andrea

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