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Former addict's piano skills attract attention of local university

By Jennifer Kendall, jkendall@ktxs.com
Published On: Aug 20 2013 10:33:16 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 21 2013 07:58:41 AM CDT
ABILENE, Texas -

When you hear Charlie Brooks play the piano his dreams all seem within reach.

"My dream is to compose movie soundtracks, commercial soundtracks, stuff like that," said Brooks

Just four months ago his story looked like it would end very differently.

“I was absolutely a wreck. I was struggling with heroin addiction cocaine addiction and alcohol addiction," Brooks said

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 100 people die from drug overdoses everyday.

Brooks said he lost everything; family, friends, he even sold his clothes to get another fix.

"I'd forgotten about music and the piano and the creative side of me for the past three and a half years that I've been using on and off," said Brooks.

It was after a night in jail that Brooks decided it was time to clean up.

"That scared me because there's so much I have to do, there's so much I want to live for, there's so much I want to accomplish...and I can't do that in a jail cell," said Brooks.

Three months ago Brooks entered treatment at Serenity House in Abilene. He stopped using drugs and alcohol on May 28th.

"I was absolutely desperate to do whatever it is to get my family back in my life,” said Brooks.

"Typical of many of the people that come to us he was sort of beaten up a little bit, but seemed to be pretty resilient and showed he wanted to rise above where he had been and find something better in his life," Serenity House Counselor James Steel said.

What Brooks found was his music. Then Steel found Brooks.

"I heard him playing the piano actually in our cafeteria and thought that was pretty impressive...So the next day we started having conversations about his playing and about his background and found out he was largely self taught,” said Steel.

"I've always wanted to do something with my music but I just don't know how to start," said Brooks

James did know where to start. He serves on the board of the music school at Hardin-Simmons.

"I called some people I know and said, ‘I know this amazing young man I'd like you to meet,’" Steel said.

"He introduced me to one of the professors, the dean of the piano department which is Mark Puckett and Mark Puckett was eager to have me come, meet with him and play for him,” said Brooks.

After hearing Brooks play, Puckett got him into the HSU music school.

Brooks meets with Professor Shirley Anderson twice a week to learn how to read music. He starts classes at Hardin-Simmons next week.

"Nothing can be more rewarding than seeing somebody restore a passion, reclaim a passion, reclaim that lost part of themselves, its absolutely thrilling," said Steel.

"I didn't look at my music as a way out and now I'm realizing that my music is a way out," Brooks said.

Brooks is set up to audition for a full ride scholarship at Hardin-Simmons in November. To get the scholarship he will need to play a personally composed piece in front of professors and students of the music school.