Behind the keyboard sits Tyler Sinckler, a 15-year-old student who will enter Wesley Chapel High this fall as a freshman.
His mom, Crystal Jenkins, and stepdad, Acie Jenkins, watch as Tyler plays, bursting with pride and marveling at how far their son has come.
Before middle school, Tyler says he was only interested in video games. His parents say he was struggling academically.
Then one day — he and his mom agree that it was out of boredom — he sat down at the piano his older brother, Chad, used to play before he left for college at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
Tyler started plunking the keys and listening to the notes, and managed to figure out the melody of the music from one of his favorite video games. He kept at it, and played more video game melodies.
He says he taught himself to play the theme from Super Smash Bros.
Shortly thereafter, Crystal signed her son up for piano lessons.
One thing led to another, and Tyler began playing percussion in the middle school band at John Long Middle School. He went to a camp to learn how to play electric guitar and bass.
Now, he composes original pieces for the piano. He competed in the talent show at his school — one when he was in the seventh grade at John Long, and another as an eighth grader at Weightman, after his home was rezoned from one school boundary area to the other. In both shows, he played an original composition and, in both shows, he took home second-place awards.
He says he discovered something new about himself.
“I liked being in front of an audience,” Tyler says. “I created my own songs and it went well. It was fun.”
Crystal says she’s impressed with Tyler’s innate skill. While both of her boys have a talent for music, she’s not a musician.
“I’m not sure where they get it from,” she laughs.
Tyler says becoming a musician has taught him many things.
“I’ve learned patience,” he says. “When I mess up in practice, I slow down and take my time.”
He also says he’s overcome being nervous and become more self-confident when he’s not playing an instrument.
He uses what he’s learned to encourage others to try new things, too, like when his friends wanted to enter the talent show competition, but didn’t because they were too nervous. “The more you do it, the less nervous you are,” he tried to convince them.
Crystal says Tyler’s love for music has led to improvements at school, and he is doing better in reading, writing and math.
“I think it’s because of his improved focus,” she says.
While Tyler had previously struggled with academics, he’s going into honors classes in high school.
That self-confidence he mentioned? It is now his shoulder to lean on as he takes on more difficult classes.
“I think I’m up for it,” he says.
When marching band starts this fall, he’ll play percussion. Tyler says he’s earned the role of “first vibraphone,” which means he’ll play the solos and leads, while other vibraphone players play rhythm.
Donald Scott, the band director at Weightman, says Tyler is a dedicated, hard working and perseverant student.
“He has a real deep love for music,” Donald says.
Tyler has developed skills in a variety of band formats. He excelled in the marching band (which performed at parades and middle school football games), concert band and even a little jazz band in middle school.
“He plays all the percussion and does it well,” says Donald. “He was one of my leaders.”
Donald says Tyler often showed the younger students how to play their parts. “He’s like a little percussion prodigy back there,” Donald says. “He knows his stuff.”
While he’s been a standout as a middle school percussionist, Tyler says that his real love is playing the piano.
He’s played in a nursing home, and even played an original composition at his mom and stepdad’s wedding.
Acie explains that Tyler has been looking for more opportunities to both perform and to give back to the community. So, Acie approached Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel requesting that his stepson volunteer his time and talents by playing the grand piano in the hospital’s lobby.
The family is hopeful that Tyler will be able to continue to volunteer in that way.
When asked if he still plays video games, Tyler says, “Not that much. I sold my video game consoles to make time for music.”
In the future, Donald says he can see Tyler continuing to pursue music with a passion.
“I can see him being a steady performer, doing all the percussion parts, and he would definitely be a great piano player,” Donald says. “If he wants to, he could become a music teacher. I really do see that in him.”