Germantown Student raises funds for Indiana University Piano Academy on GoFundMe

Germantown Branch piano student, Obataiye Lyles.

Obataiye Lyles, piano student at our Germantown Branch.

When Obataiye Lyles puts his mind to something, nothing stands in his way. This past summer, the 17-year-old pianist and Settlement student had his eye on the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Piano Academy, but the financial aid he received as a result of his audition still left him with a hefty tuition bill. What do young, determined artists do when they need financial help pursuing their dreams? They start a GoFundMe.

Online crowdfunding came into vogue over the past decade as websites like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and GoFundMe provided platforms for individual users to solicit donations for their specific causes. Users set up their own page where they write an appeal to donors and have the chance to post videos to help inspire people to give. Seeing an opportunity, Obataiye filmed himself performing one of his favorite Rachmaninoff pieces, the Prelude in C-sharp Minor, in a practice room at Settlement’s Germantown Branch, where he often practices, along with an example of one of his idols, pianist and IU Jacobs faculty member André Watts.

For Obataiye and his mom, Naeemah Patterson, the GoFundMe campaign’s success was “all due to his videos,” giving potential donors a special behind-the-scenes look at who they were helping. Once they started sharing the page on Facebook community pages, the shares, likes, and donations kept coming, surpassing his original goal of $2,800. When all was said and done, Obataiye was not only able to attend IU Jacobs Piano Academy, but could also apply the surplus to offset the cost of his piano lessons with Michael Stambaugh at Settlement.

As he enters his third year of piano study, Obataiye is relatively new to the instrument, but certainly not new to the idea of focused practice. Before piano, his main focus was tennis, another activity that requires extreme levels of dedication and finesse to perfect. Like many musicians of his generation, Obataiye discovered the piano on YouTube. He was inspired to start lessons at Settlement by watching video after video of professional performances, including a particularly inspirational recording of a 16-year-old André Watts performing the Liszt Piano Concerto in E-flat Major.

Obataiye’s mom says the tennis, piano study, and even the GoFundMe campaign are all part of her son’s education. Obataiye and his four siblings have been homeschooled in a style that their mom describes as “student-led,” allowing each child to choose their own path of study, so long as they are “learning how to learn” and gaining “the tools to teach themselves.” As a result, Obataiye is accustomed to setting his own goals and figuring out exactly what he needs to do to achieve them.