Student Teaches Himself New Skill

Nathan Schaffer

Lily Heidorn, Student of Journalism

The world is gone.

All that remains is nuclear radiation, warring factions and a loss of hope.

But, through the disease, death and despair plays a single piano.

Perhaps this is the world that Nathan Schaffer, 17, imagines when he practices his music.

Born from the tunes of “Clair de Lune” and “He Was a Good S.T.A.L.K.E.R.,” the latter a melody from one of his favorite video games set in a post-apocalyptic Chernobyl, Nathan’s determination to teach himself how to play an instrument grows.

With each note that rings out, he gets a little better; but his triumphs come with a cost.

Nathan is a survivor of the pandemic, and his struggles took a heavy toll on his health. For weeks on end, he is bedridden and without the energy to even pick up his phone.

“COVID was an experience I would only wish on a few choice people.”

But now his only worries are about math tests.

Now that life has returned to normal for him — that his determination has been renewed — he can play once again.

This resolve is admirable even in its own right, despite coming from humble beginnings because he doesn’t own an instrument, but the place he works has a few pianos lying around.

“Whenever I’m on break, I teach myself how to play.

No one encouraged him to play.

No one is giving him a grade.

Most people hire tutors or take classes to acquire a skill as grand as the piano, but Nathan sacrifices the few moments of grace he receives to strengthen his skills.

His actions prove that strife isn’t a definition — it’s a springboard. And maybe the few lone wasteland wanderers in his songs find encouragement in his actions, too.