Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pianist Plans for Future Almost Lost to Kidnapping; Teen Who Was Taken as an Infant Finds Talent at His Fingertips

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pianist Plans for Future Almost Lost to Kidnapping; Teen Who Was Taken as an Infant Finds Talent at His Fingertips

Article excerpt

Byline: JON SEIDEL, The Times-Union

Andy Kosowski's concentration at a piano keyboard is relaxed but intense.

The Jacksonville 14-year-old, who has played for a year and a half, pays careful attention to where his fingers will land, but the trance he falls into seems effortless.

On the couch nearby, his mother, Stacey Kosowski, listens. Her eyes are on her son, watching with a proud smile that lasts from the first note to the last.

She almost never heard him play.

Andy Kosowski is the child whose kidnapping caught Jacksonville's attention for nine days in 1990, when he was 3 months old. A woman who claimed to be a social worker tricked his mother, then known as Stacey Ayn Smith, into leaving Andy, then James Andrew Smith, alone with her.

He was returned after an anonymous tip to the local FBI office led investigators to the suspect's home in Georgia. The woman had treated Andy as her own child, and he was returned unharmed. Since then, both Smiths have taken the name of Andy's father.

Today, Stacey Kosowski is an understandably protective mother of Andy and his 9-year-old brother, Kaleb. Andy is aware of his past but doesn't remember the ordeal. He wants to become a concert pianist, and he says he will stick with that whether that leaves him rich in a mansion or poor in a shack.

Right now, he is impressing all the people who count, and he's not wasting his time with it. Andy has composed 19 songs and has begun school at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.

"He's got the expression and the technique that a lot of very, very mature pianists have," said Mary Wingfield, his teacher. "His composition is going to grow into something quite phenomenal."

Andy performed Aug. 1 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville. Henson Markham, the music director there, had heard his music and requested the recital.

"It was very well-received," Markham said. "I'm sure he has a brilliant future ahead of him."

It began when Andy's great-grandmother gave him a keyboard as a gift. Andy had been a percussionist at school, so he already knew how to read music and feel a rhythm. The piano was a quick adjustment for him.

"He knew his stuff," Stacey Kosowski said. "I wasn't really surprised."

What has impressed people is Andy'sability to write a quick composition. He performed Winter Waltz, one of his original works, at the Unitarian church. That same song earned him a composition award at the University of North Florida's North Florida Piano Camp.

"They've never had any composers there before," Andy said.

For his performance at the church, he included a few measures written by his stepfather, Robert Belford. Hearing Belford talk about helping his stepson is like hearing a baseball fan talk about playing catch with his favorite major league pitcher. …

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