Kerry Yanasak is very involved with his community and his family. He volunteers as an officer for the Kiwanis Club in Puyallup, works as a loan originator by day, and is an avid pianist, gardener, and skier. When asked three words to describe himself, Kerry replied, “Compassionate, fun, and enthusiastic.” He grew up on a poultry farm outside of Orting, Washington. He lived in the same house until he went to college to study music with an emphasis in piano. It was interesting to find that Kerry wasn’t originally interested in piano when he was first introduced to it, “I played the piano since I was 7 years old, you can do the math, but that does equate to 50 years of playing. The piano for me started out like most kids, something my mother and grandmother thought I should do regardless of whether I was interested in it or not and I wasn’t [Kerry laughed]. Like any other normal kid, I wanted to hang out in the living room watching the “Three Stooges” with my brothers rather than practicing the piano for 15 minutes a day.
So, what started out as “pain and suffering” became fun and a life time hobby for me. Over the years I had played at countless weddings for friends and around town at various community events, such as: the annual Daffodil Queens’ Coronation, dinners, auctions, etc. Recently I began to work at my repertoire and wanted to see if I can make some money at this.”
Kerry shared the best thing about playing the piano, “Playing for folks in the right environment and taking some folks down memory lane is very, very rewarding. I get to see smiles and hear stories as the songs I play and take folks to a very “happy place”. And whenever I play, I feel I am paying a tribute to my mother and her mother; thanking them for giving me this gift of playing the piano.” Kerry discussed his background in piano, “I really didn’t develop my playing style in college. All piano players have their “style” and it takes some time to fall into what is comfortable for us. It is difficult to play like someone else. I had a lot of teachers along the way and would remiss if I failed to mention Dr. Marilyn Jacobson in Puyallup. She was/is a dynamo teacher and made me work hard. When my kids took lessons and it was time for them to move to a different teacher, it was her that taught them. I have one son that plays quite well, a very different style than me and it was Dr. Jacobson’s encouragement that motivated him, too. I was also greatly influenced by a neighbor I had growing up. Her name was/is Bonnie Guitar. She is 89 years old and lives in Eastern Washington now. When I was 7 years old, she bought the property adjacent to our farm and as kids we loved to hang out at her place. She travelled a lot and always brought back gifts for us. She had been on the Ed Sullivan show in the late 1950’s (twice) and was an incredible writer, singer, and guitarist. In 1966, she won the first Academy of Country and Western Music Association Female Vocalist of the year award. Those awards evolved into the CMA Awards we know of today. I don’t think us kids even know about that at the time. She was just our neighbor. Bonnie Guitar knew/knows hundreds of songs and I would go with her around the area to listen and watch her perform. I still call her now and then if I am stumped for a really pretty chord to add in a song. She is one of my most influential mentors; both musically and otherwise. I also had a lot of teachers growing up in Orting that were wonderful people that mentored me along the way; too many to mention.”
Kerry discussed his family, “I have a former wife in this area. We did very well raising a family. She is a local teacher and I believe any kid that ends up in her classroom is the luckiest kid in school! My daughter is also a great teacher here in Puyallup in the Special Education department. She is very good at what she does. One son attends San Francisco State University and just got his degree in International Relations and is finishing up his second degree in economics. He actually moved to San Francisco; not for school but so he could skateboard outside year round. And he is very good! My other son is a raft guide in Colorado in the summer and snowboard instructor at Crystal Mountain in the winter. He’s “living the life”. He was awarded “snowboard instructor of the year” for the second time in a row at the end of this season.”
Kerry shared more of his family and his child upbringing, “My kids only have known one house as I have lived in my current home 30 years. The first home in Orting was a log home my dad built with the trees that fell on sight. As a kid, we raised sheep and had a few chickens. Those chickens eventually numbered about 26,000 by the time I was in high school. Yes, my brother’s and I (I have a twin) had plenty to keep us busy in our free time. There were five of us boys and we were spread out. My oldest brother left for Senegal with The Peace Corps in 1962, so I never got to know him as a kid growing up. I figured my parents did well for planning on having help on the farm. I call that old fashioned Planned Parenthood.
When asked what his biggest accomplishment is, Kerry replied, “I have three grown children. If being a successful parent could be based on the relationship one has with their kids then I should write the book. And they all play the piano!” Kerry discussed what motivates him, “[Kerry laughed] I am an avid gardener and skier. I am motivated by the seasons. These days it’s yard work, in the fall, it’s preparing the yard for winter, in the winter it is a good ski day with my son who is an instructor at Crystal Mountain, then the spring, it’s back to the yard. As a family, we did more than our share of travelling. We spent more than one Christmas abroad. And I still get excited for a good road trip.”
Kerry conferred his long-term and short-term career goals, “I’m pretty vested in real estate. My regular “job” is as a mortgage loan originator. I was self employed for almost 25 years and had my own shop. But due to the real estate climate, I now work for someone else. But I accumulated some real estate over the years and I maintain these properties and move tenants in and out. While my short-term goal is taking care of these properties, my long-term goal is hoping the value returns to what it once was so I can sell them!!”
Kerry’s hobbies and interests aside from playing his piano and looking for piano jobs, his interests include his yard which is full of perennials, skiing, and road trips with his kids.
When asked what many people may not know about him or his career, Kerry replied, “You can find me on Craigslist under musicians? I practice a whole lot! There are two styles I play: I play songs for the sake of playing the tune and then there are songs I will work on for a week and build a very clever arrangement.”
Kerry concluded, “I was with the late and great popular pianist Roger Williams a few years ago and the subject of “favorite songs” came up. He told me, “People really do not have a favorite song. What they have is a favorite memory that a certain song reminds them of”. I have found that to be very true. When I play for an older crowd and play a request or play a certain song someone knows, the stories come. And they are usually pretty neat stories to hear. Personally, I have several songs I always play and they are songs that remind me of a special time or person in my life. I always play “Somewhere My Love” because it was a song my mother loved. I always play a very old tune called “Red Wing” because it was a song my dad liked as a child in the teens (and the older crowds loves it and probably have not heard that tune for 60 years or more and reminds them or their parents). I play “Mockingbird Hill” because it was a song my parents danced to long before I was born. And there are songs I played my kids to sleep with at night.”
By: Carly Calabrese, staff for Tacoma.com