Craig Hospital recently won 12 Telly Awards for the I Am Craig video. Here is the first chapter in the series. Ladies and Gentlemen, Doug Smith.
Last fall our media crew was fortunate enough to spend the better part of a week with musician Doug Smith and his manager Alan Crossland just outside of Lubbock Texas. We listened to his music the entire road trip from Colorado to West Texas. This music became the inspiration for the eventual production of the video for the 2011 Craig Hospital PUSH fundraising event–and a life-altering experience for all of us.
There is a testimonial on his web site: “Listening to Doug Smith play is like watching a world-renowned painter create his masterpiece, effortlessly. He creates from an infinite pallet of colors and draws from his vast knowledge of music, so much so that his works are unclassifiable.”
I’ve never had a music lesson. I don’t read music. The only explanation I have is that my music comes from God,” Doug explained. When he was two years old, his mother heard music coming from a back room in the house – she thought she’d left the radio on. What she discovered was Doug playing a small organ – both chords and melodies with two hands, creating renditions of melodies he’d heard from nursery rhymes, songs on the radio, and hymns from church.
“If you live in West Texas, you play football. I played football. But I also composed music and performed.” Doug began recording in 1982 and has since released 10 CDs. His music is the soundtrack to Weiman Meinzer’s West Texas – a documentary featured in Imax theatres throughout West Texas.
His songs are stories without words. Doug’s natural phrasing and technique make you wonder – is he the true instrument, or is it his piano?
In 2007, at the peak of his career, Doug rolled his pick-up truck late one night when he was driving home after a recording session. He hung upside down for several hours, wondering what this moment in his life would bring. The accident resulted in quadriplegia and changed his life in a brief moment.
He came to Craig Hospital not only to learn how to rebuild his life, but also how to live his life…in a different way. “It didn’t really hit me until I rolled my wheelchair up to the piano in the chapel and realized I wasn’t able to play. My piano was broken, I was broken, my life was broken. But Craig taught me how to live again. They gave me back my life.”
It took perseverance and grit, but his hard work resulted in a different approach to playing the piano. He uses a karate-chop type motion to generate chords with his left hand and plays the melody with the reduced use of his right. He recently finished recording his first CD since his accident.
In the recording studio that he built with his good friend and manager Alan Crossland, Doug told us the story of his life while he played his Yamaha Grand. His narration was combined with an emotional musical score, filled with harmony and dissonance. The setting was a converted garage filled with sophisticated sound and recording equipment, surrounded by mature cotton fields lit just right by the orange fire of a setting sun…the setting of a real-life movie that won’t soon be forgotten.
At the Craig Hospital PUSH dinner, a curtain opened up to reveal a baby grand piano on the stage. The surprise guest, Doug Smith, rolled up in his wheelchair to a deafening standing ovation from an audience of 1000. There was an immediate silence as Doug paused. Then a tentative five notes played by a single finger reverberated throughout the room, to blossom into a crescendo of sound, stirring emotion. It became the song he has ended every performance of his life with, a song that today, defines his life. Amazing Grace.