File photo

Charlie Carpenter is gainfully employed. That might not strike you as news-worthy, unless you read Dave Pierini’s photo essay on Charlie that appeared in Wednesday Journal on July 2, 2014. Here’s a sample:

“Carpenter, of Oak Park, has Cat Eye syndrome, a rare chromosomal disorder that gives him certain intellectual disabilities. Simple tasks like buttoning a shirt, removing a stem from a strawberry or making change for a dollar can at times seem like insurmountable challenges.

“While musical ability is closely associated with some developmental disabilities, nothing about Carpenter’s disorder explains how he can play Bach’s Trio Sonatas with such ease, each hand working different keyboards while his feet shift along the floor pedals.

“Nor can it explain how Carpenter can practice piano and organ for more than eight hours a day and not tire.

“‘Charlie lives in a different universe that you and I will never be a part of,’ said Dennis Northway, the musical director of Grace Episcopal Church and Carpenter’s teacher. ‘That is not hyperbole. Charlie lives an aural landscape. He hears pitches and colors that other people can only dream of.'”

In spite of the challenges he contends with, his mom, Julie Carpenter (executive director of the Oak Park Art League) reports the happy news that “Charlie has been with St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in the Lakeview area of Chicago since April and just signed on as their organist and pianist. All is going well!

“A couple other things he’s been up to since the 2014 WJ story: In September 2014 Charlie had the opportunity to perform in the WFMT Bach Organ Project, opening for renowned organist Nathan Laube. This October, Charlie will be visiting his organ instructor, Dennis Northway, currently on sabbatical in Norwich, England. Dennis has arranged an Oct. 9 performance for Charlie at the Norwich Cathedral, which has the fourth largest pipe organ in England.

“Closer to home, Stephanie Clemens has enlisted Charlie for piano accompaniment for ballet classes at the Academy of Movement and Music. He’s over there three times a week and walks out beaming every time. He has developed many friendships and just blocks from our home, we enjoy the fact that he can be independent in getting himself there.”

It’s nice to report when really hard work (performing and parenting) really pays off.

Here’s the link to our story on Charlie at

Ken Trainor

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