One of the most tragic aspects of losing a child is never being able to see them fulfill their true potential.
Kyan Pennell was just getting started in life. At age 12, the Gympie, Australia boy was a creative, funny, and courageous animal lover. He’d also recently taken a big interest in music and taught himself to play the piano using only YouTube videos.
“The thing that has given us some little part of Kyan to hold onto is when I found this composition he was working on,” the devastated mom told ABC Radio Brisbane. “I didn’t realize he knew how to write music.”
Brierly shared a photo of the piece of music to social media, accompanied by several videos of the boy playing on his piano.
The heartbreaking posts were seen by musicians around the world, many of whom have now recorded tribute versions of Pennell’s original song.
Meanwhile, members of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra have been inspired to record Pennell’s piece for his funeral.
The organization’s principal cellist, Hyung Suk Bae, said he sat down at his own piano last week to play Pennell’s tune.
“Sometimes music just talks to you, and I started playing it actually slow, and it sounded just beautiful and pure, and nice and simple,” he stated.
In just 7 months, Kyan learned to play more than 35 pieces of classical music, including Chopin’s “Fantaisie Impromptu” and Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.” Mom Amanda Brierley explained, “He was neurodiverse and it gave him this complete superpower to just focus on something and do justice to it.”
Amanda didn’t know it at the time, but Kyan was also experimenting with writing music of his own.
“I didn’t realise that he knew how to write music,” she said. “He said he wanted to know how to get what was inside his head out on paper and he must have been learning how to do that.”
Sadly, the world will never get to know how far Kyan could have gone with his talents. On January 31st 2022 he was killed in a freak accident. His family was stunned and overwhelmed with grief. After his death, Amanda was going through his things when she stumbled upon a notebook. Inside, she discovered the start of an original composition Kyan had been working on. His grieving mother called the find “an unexpected gift” from her son.
Amanda says the composition felt like they’d been given a small piece of their son to keep forever. She decided to ask musicians to finish the piece on his behalf so they could play it at his funeral. Naturally, she turned to the internet for help.
“I found this,” Amanda wrote on Facebook. “Kyan was composing his own classical (I could be wrong but I think he said ‘modern’ classical) and I never heard what he was composing. Is there anyone that can read music and play it and send it to us. If I remember rightly he told me about this and there were bits that repeated, and changed tempo, with light and shade, but he didn’t write that down. It would mean the world to us to hear his composition.”
She has already received several versions of Kyan’s song, and each one goes a little further to help their family heal. “I just want to be able to change his memory from a tragic accident to something of beauty for others as well,” she said.
Twelve is far too young to say goodbye. Our thoughts are with the Pennell family as they continue to keep Kyan’s memory, and talent, alive.
Please share this story to honor his memory and musical talent.