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Lakeland native fulfills dream of playing piano at famed Carnegie Hall

The concert fell on his mom's birthday.

NEW YORK — Robert Fleitz will never forget the night of Oct. 18, 2021. It was the night he played piano in front of family and friends at one of the most historic buildings in the music world.

“What more could you want really been an audience that is there a sharing the experience with you in front of a lot of people who I know I love very much?” the pianist said, just days after performing at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

That audience included the man who taught him to play. Patrick Fleitz, Robert’s dad, had only been to Carnegie Hall one other time. It was a thrill for him to watch Robert at such a well-known place.

“The one venue that any musician at least in the classical world or a pianist would want to play, it would be Carnegie Hall,” said Patrick, who explained his only other time going to an event there was to watch Robert’s Julliard teacher perform. “It’s once in a lifetime.”

Robert, 28, was born and raised in Lakeland and graduated from Harrison School for the Arts in Lakeland. All three of his siblings did, too. Patrick began teaching Harrison two years ago but has been instructing piano students for three decades.

“He was my first piano teacher and really a big part of why I play piano at all,” said Robert, who has been playing since he was four.

The crowd was “intimate” and “cozy”, according to Robert. The concert fell on Robert’s mother’s birthday. He played a mix of classical pieces and contemporary songs during his hour-long session behind the keys. After the performance he was greeted outside by a crowd with flowers and hugs.

“It was really a special feeling. It’s hard to put it into words,” he said from Europe via ZOOM call. It’s something that I worked towards for a very long time, and it’s another part of my musical journey.”

Pro Musicis is the organization that coordinated the concert. Robert won a music competition through the organization and the prize for the winner was a Carnegie Hall debut.

“Out of the blue he said, ‘Oh by the way, I’ll be playing at Carnegie Hall,’” recalled Patrick with a chuckle.

It is a night the family won’t forget.

“My wife and I were just looking at (Carnegie Hall) and thinking, ‘there’s just one concert tonight and it’s our son.' That moment really hit me,” said Patrick.

See more of Robert’s music on YouTube.

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