Cover of Penny the One-of-a-Kind Piano

About ten years ago, my friend Suzanne Jackson woke up in the middle of the night with a story in her head. That day she’d been at the Washington National Opera and paid particular attention to the upright piano used for her rehearsal. Hours later, she dreamed of a special piano that traveled the world and came to terms with being unique, and with being herself.

Now the Kennedy Center will be presenting Penny the One-of-a-Kind Piano the musical on their Millennium Stage on March 25, 2012. 

Penny the One-of-a-Kind Piano, as illustrated by Bob and Tessa Jackson

Just like Penny, it’s been quite a journey for Suzanne herself.

Suzanne wrote down the story that night years ago, and, then, set it aside. A mother of three, a company member at the Washington National Opera, a yoga instructor and private music teacher, Suzanne had plenty to keep her busy. But, after a number of years, the story surfaced again, and her husband, artist Bob Jackson, began to work on sketches for a children’s book along with their daughter, Tessa. Placido Domingo, world-famous opera singer and former General Director of the Washington National Opera, gave his support to the story as well, and wrote the foreword to Penny the One-of-a-Kind Piano, the illustrated book that Suzanne released in early 2011.

The Penny story teaches children the meaning of living a one-of-a-kind life. Through making music, Penny has many priceless experiences and discovers the home within herself.

Carmen Balthrop, David Cook, Placido Domingo, Suzanne Jackson

Suzanne was inspired to donate proceeds from the book to foster children when she realized one of her own voice students was a foster child and was using money she earned at Chick-fil-A to pay for her voice lessons. “I witnessed the true healing power of music while teaching voice lessons to Catherine. Foster youth often feel they are different.  I hope this book inspires them to find their inner home just as Penny does in the book.” Jackson awarded the first Penny the Piano Scholarship with Placido Domingo to David Cook on September 26th, 2011.

Visit Penny’s website to learn more about the project and to order a copy of the book. You can also donate to the project to help provide music lessons to foster children at And to learn more about Suzanne, visit

Here’s to inspirational, enriching projects like Suzanne’s!