Friday, April 4, 2008

This is Nathan Alden Robinson, 15; shone as student, pianist, friend

Nokiainside - Hot News

From an early age, Nathan Alden Robinson loved music. His first instrument was a Casio toy keyboard, his family said, and Nathan loved to listen to a preprogrammed version of Beethoven's "Für Elise."

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"He said, 'So Daddy, can you teach me how to play?' " said his father, Donald Robinson, a professional musician. "I found a simple arrangement and he learned to play it by rote."

Nathan, a 15-year-old freshman at Newton North High School, continued to play the piano, and later the clarinet, every day until just before his death Friday of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, pneumonia, and influenza at Children's Hospital Boston.

"Every morning he would get up at 6:10, get dressed, have his cereal, and at 6:30 he would sit down and play the piano; you could set your watch by it," his father said.

A few weeks before his death, Nathan was at a friend's house, and the two were talking about "The Office," their favorite television show. Nathan's friend suggested he play the theme music to the program, so Nathan looked online for the sheet music. Nathan mastered the song almost instantly, and his impromptu performance was filmed and posted on YouTube.

Nathan, a straight-A student, loved math and had said he wanted to be a high school math teacher some day. He devoured books, usually reading more than one each week, his family said.

"He loved the homework; he loved the math tests," said his mother, Stacey Alden. "If it was too easy, if it was multiple choice, he'd be disappointed."

At the beginning of the year, Nathan's English teacher, Nick Grant, asked students to write about their quirks and eccentricities, a topic that couldn't have suited Nathan more.

"He was honest, funny, clever, remarkably good," Grant said. "And I knew, bingo, right from there, that he was a remarkably special kid."

Nathan was very close to his 13-year-old sister, Nellie. He accompanied her on piano during her viola recital and once commissioned her to paint some of his favorite video game characters.

"People used to think I made things up, because there were never any stories of them fighting," his mother said.

His parents said Nathan cared genuinely about how others were treated and could form instant bonds with people, regardless of age.

"He was a good person," his father said. "He didn't like to see people picked on. He had great empathy. He'd get very upset when he'd see people be mean to one another."

When he wasn't playing the piano, Nathan loved to write. For the last few years, he had been privately working on a book. He had completed 90 pages; Nathan's parents say they don't plan to read the work-in-progress out of respect for his privacy.

In addition to his parents and sister, Nathan leaves his grandparents Jack and Selma Alden, of Centerville, Billy Robinson of Redwood City, Calif., and Shirley Robinson of Roseville, Calif.

The family is planning a memorial service for next month.

© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.

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