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OTC music student thrives without piano

When Luke Lyons hears a melody in his head, he sometimes has to reach for the closest paper bag.

Lyons, a student at Ozarks Technical Community College from Springfield, wants to be a composer but for now supports himself working at a at a McDonald’s restaurant in Springfield.

When inspiration hits him at work, he reaches for whatever is handy at the restaurant.

“I write melodies on napkins and Happy Meal bags,” Lyons said.

When he gets home, his melodic notes are transferred onto his music binder where Lyons keeps his work. He’s completed several original compositions and has more in the works.

What makes Lyons’ work even most stunning is that he doesn’t own a piano. Instead, he uses the piano laboratory at OTC’s Fine Arts Department to work out his compositions. Lyons studied music theory and other piano courses at OTC.

Lyons, 20, has performed some of his works in public to great acclaim.

“Luke has such a gift of composition.  He has worked hour after hour in the piano lab.  His desire is so strong that he will drive anywhere to get to a piano to compose.  It has been a long time since I have seen a student whose passion drives them to succeed and be better,” said Jennifer McAtee, instructor of music at OTC.

Lyons, who was home schooled, took about 18 months of formal piano lessons when he was a child but lost interest in playing at age 15.

A few years ago, he started teaching himself again and then took up an interest in composing for movies.

Without owning a piano, Lyons practices at OTC and at piano labs at other area colleges.

“Not having a piano might hamper my learning at bit since I can’t afford the gas to drive everywhere there’s a piano available,” Lyons said.

The second-year student does use a keyboard app on his iPhone to write music. The first movement of a recent piece Lyons wrote was composed on his phone.

Despite the hurdles, Lyons is confident he will succeed because of what he feels when he plays the piano.

“Everything is gone when I’m at the piano. Everything goes away. It’s total contentment. I could sit at the piano the rest of my life,” Lyons said.

Watch Lyons play a portion of an original composition at

Steve Koehler is coordinator of publications at Ozarks Technical Community College. Contact him at



College Director of Communications

Phone: 417.447.2655


Steve Koehler

Coordinator of Publications

Phone: (417) 447-2666


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