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Aspiring actor takes Elton John to streets of Prince George

Musician Caleb Oman gaining recognition for sit-down session playing miniature piano
Caleb Oman strums his ukelele. A recording of the 23-year-old acting student playing a tiny upright piano in downtown Prince George had gone viral.

Caleb Oman had just finished his day at acting school in downtown Prince George and was heading for the bus stop on Fourth Avenue when he walked up to P.S. Pianos and saw a kid-sized piano just itching to be played.

Dressed in his trademark fedora, the karaoke king of Burns Lake warmed up with a Frank Sinatra tune, belted out some Bruno Mars and Jerry Lee Lewis, then dug into his rendition of Elton John’s Your Song.

Scrolling his phone to show him what chords to play, Oman nailed it with spot-on keyboard proficiency, backed by a powerful voice that carried the tune perfectly.

A passing pedestrian, Marla Wilson, liked what she was hearing and recorded it on her phone.

“I just happened to be walking past him that afternoon,” said Wilson. “He sounded good and the small outdoor piano was cute, too. He is talented and brightened my day with his playing and his singing voice.”

A couple days later, Oman’s mom in Burns Lake saw the video Wilson posted on Facebook and from there it blew up on social media.

“My mom  shared to a bigger group on Facebook, Hell Yeah Prince George, and within a couple days it got over 10,000 views, which really surprised me,” said Oman.

Oman, 23, is a student at the Story Institute PG, part of the inaugural class of 15 aspiring actors attending the school started September by Barkerville Historic Town manager/film director James Douglas. The school is a block away from the piano store.

“I’d noticed it out there and I like playing piano so I just decided to kill a bit of time and I ended up missing my bus, but that was OK,” he said.

Oman’s mom used to play when she was younger and his parents got him into piano lessons when he was four but he didn’t stick with it for long and aside from a formal lesson revival when he was 11 or 12 he considers himself self-taught. He and his high school classmates Trevor Stewart and Tyree Parkin and math teacher Bob Mills formed a band – Nein To V Playaz. They played at parties and festivals and the occasional bar.

“I watched a lot of videos and picked up stuff just by ear, so it’s all mostly self-taught, but I’ve been playing 19 years since I was four,” he said. “I’m not big on reading sheet music, I just like to look at the chords and kind of play around and figure it out myself.”

P.S. Pianos owner Peter Stevenson started wheeling out the tiny upright piano, known as Princess or Tom Thumb, outside the entrance of his store three years ago. Except on the coldest days of winter it’s there whenever the store is open, protected from the elements by an overhead awning. The piano was made in 1927 and was painted by local artist Magee Spicer.

“This is a very old Japanese piano and the keys are smaller and the key bed is lower; it’s a cute little piano that hasn’t been made in decades,” said Stevenson. “We tune it occasionally because it’s outside.”

Oman also plays guitar, ukulele and kazoo. He has a drum kit and saxophone but says he can’t play either of them. He had a falsetto voice as a kid and used to sing occasionally but didn’t flex his vocal cords much in public until he got into drama courses and musicals at Lakes District Secondary School.

“We haven’t played together in a couple years  but one day we’ll get back together and we’ll actually sound good, hopefully,” he said. “I’ve had no professional voice) training, it’s just come to me. I like singing older stuff, like Frank Sinatra or Elvis, or Elton John. My Way is new on my list and I sing When I  Was Your Man by Bruno Mars. I also sing Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis.”

Oman is getting by on a student budget and while he’s not starving just yet he says he wants to look into playing at seniors residences around the city to see if he can fill his tip jar. He’s also going to check out the coffee club/restaurant scene to try to make a few bucks.



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