Piano Man

Give Louis Colaiannia a hand--he'll need one after his 24-hour marathon.

"The situation in eastern Russia is horrible," Colaiannia says. "There are people making eight dollars a month. There's a tuberculosis clinic that really needs a fax machine. I have no desire to set a world record, but I do have a huge desire to help children, and this is a way I can get people interested."

The physical demands of performing in public for a night and a day don't worry Colaiannia. Years of playing malls and bookstores, not to mention the rigors of his early Holiday Inn gigs, have toughened him for the ordeal ahead. He doesn't even consider it an ordeal, having played the same Sam Goody store on a regular basis in recent years. "The first time I did it they told me to stay as long as I wanted," he says. "Twelve hours later they shut the mall down, and I had to leave."

Endurance, in Dr. Lou's case, comes down to a matter of passion, discipline--and adaptability. Years ago, in a high school basketball game, he stole the ball, broke away and made a right-handed layup from the left side of the basket. Everyone cheered except Louis Sr., who was livid. After the match, he told his son he should have used his left hand.

"That was a morning game," Colaiannia recalls. "We got home and went out to the backyard. He'd bounce me the ball, and I did lefthanded layups all afternoon. The only time I stopped was to eat and to go to the bathroom. We turned the lights on in the evening and went on and on. When I was recruited by CU, one of the things they noticed was that I could shoot left-handed as well as right-handed."

Colaiannia gave up competitive karate a few years ago because it made his hands feel gummy. After he developed the carpal tunnel problem in his wrists, he fretted that he might have to give up bowling, too; instead, he learned how to bowl with his left hand whenever the right was bothering him. Although he surrenders a few pins in the process, he still plans to compete in the amateur nationals in Las Vegas next spring. Sports are his first love, an older claim than even the piano.

These days, though, he does his best work with both hands.

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