By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN What’s more amazing Kailyn Warne’s unbelievable musical ability or her genuine, selfless care for others?
That’s the question people are left wondering after they’ve met Kailyn, an eighth-grader at Delano Middle School.
In the past two years, Kailyn has sold more than 200 copies of her two piano CD recordings, which include original compositions and arrangements. Her third CD, featuring Christmas music, will release sometime in 2011.
Instead of keeping the money for herself, however, she donates 100 percent of her earnings to Relay for Life, a non-profit organization dedicated to cancer research.
“I make the CDs for that purpose,” said Kailyn, the daughter of Mike and Charlene Warne.
Many people play her powerful, inspirational pieces during dinner parties, school quiet periods, and daycare naptimes.
“I work on making you feel differently,” Kailyn said. “Some of my songs are happy, and some are more emotional, to touch people.”
Kailyn has the ability to play songs that she hears on the radio, even if they are not piano-based.
“I play songs by ear. That’s what I enjoy doing most,” she said. “When I hear a song, I can pick out the note that it starts on and go from there.”
Kailyn’s natural musical aptitude is somewhat of a mystery to her and her family.
“We don’t know of any relatives who were musicians,” said Charlene, who teaches third grade at Delano Elementary School. “Some took lessons but never pursued it.”
Kailyn’s great-grandmother had a piano, and when she moved out of her house, she gave it to Kailyn’s family.
As a first grader, Kailyn and her older sister, Allison, enjoyed playing around on the keys. At first, it was just noise, but one day, Kailyn called her mother into the room to hear a song.
“She started playing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,’ which was pretty good, considering we had no sheet music,” Charlene said.
Not long after, Charlene heard Kailyn playing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” by ear.
Since Kailyn had such a strong interest in music, the Warnes, who were living in south Minneapolis at the time, found a piano teacher for Kailyn in St. Paul.
“She started lessons that summer and was completely hooked,” Charlene said.
The family moved to Delano in 2005, but Kailyn kept her teacher, Trish Hurd.
With Hurd’s help, Kailyn continues to develop her sight-reading and technical performance capabilities.
Many of her lesson songs are classical, but Kailyn’s favorite music has a more modern flavor.
“I love playing pieces by Lorie Line,” she added.
At first, piano was simply an “extra activity,” for Kailyn.
“Now, it’s my passion,” she said. “If I’m frustrated, mad, or sad, I go to my piano and release it. It’s really an internal feeling; it makes me feel good.”
Piano has also become a way for Kailyn to help others.
Two years ago, she was trying to think of ways to raise money for her Relay for Life team, when the thought of recording and selling piano CDs occurred to her.
“It was the way I felt I’d enjoy volunteering,” Kailyn said.
She went to Schmidt Music in Burnsville, where people can record for free using a blank CD. The recording is in one long segment, so Kailyn and Delano Elementary School technical specialist Paul Ludwig edited it with free software called Audacity.
Kailyn’s sent letters to her family and friends, who became her first customers. Word spread from there, and the number of people requesting Kailyn’s music keeps increasing.
One of her songs is in memory of Heidi Rensink, 22, of Delano, who died of brain cancer in 2009.
“It’s called ‘Dear Angel,’” Kailyn said. “That one, I just happened to write lyrics for.”The basis of her second CD is from her song, “In the Moment.”
“I feel that cancer patients learn to live in the moment, and they can teach us to do the same,” Kailyn said.
Writing music isn’t easy even for Kailyn but sometimes a melody will just come to her.
“One day I was in the shower humming a tune, and when I got out, I had to go play it on the piano right away so I could remember it,” she said. “It ended up becoming a song.”
Many of Kailyn’s arrangements are based on existing songs, such as “Feels Like Home,” by Chantal Kreviazuk. As the last song on her second CD, it is meant to give hope to people dealing with cancer.
“The cancer patients might find their home in heaven, or they might find a cure,” Kailyn said during a video interview with Delano’s gifted and talented teacher, Gwen Briesemeister.
Briesemeister’s video about Kailyn, “Keys to Life,” was screened at the Filmanthropist Film Festival at the West End Theaters in December.
“The film could not be more than five minutes, and had to highlight an individual doing philanthropic work,” Briesemeister noted.
In addition to donating money from CD sales, Kailyn plays at the Delano Senior Center, accompanies her eighth-grade girls choir, and performed during Delano’s Relay for Life ceremony.
She also recently began teaching piano lessons to one student, and hopes to do more in high school.
“That’d be a nice job, and it’s flexible,” she said.
High school graduation is still years away for Kailyn, but she loves to think about her future.
Her “ultimate dream” would be to study piano performance and songwriting at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
For now, though, Kailyn is concentrating on getting her third CD recorded. This summer, she also hopes to find someone to help with professional recording at no cost, since recording at Schmidt Music isn’t ideal.
No matter what, Kailyn knows that piano will always be a part of her life.
“I practice at least an hour every day,” she said. “If I have a really busy day, I’ll do it before bed. I need to get my little ‘piano fix’ in.”
To purchase a CD or to learn more, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see Briesemeister’s video about Kailyn, go to http://vimeo.com/17751167.