Piano lessons on Keisel's off-season to-do list

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Brett Keisel is known for making tackles at Heinz Field, but he likes the big hits playing over at Heinz Hall, too. There, a different type of player performs.

"We're also huge Pittsburgh Symphony fans and attend a bunch of shows there throughout the year," said Mr. Keisel, who lives here year round.

If the 2013 NFL season turns out to be Mr. Keisel's last, he plans to spend more time pursuing his musical interests, including going to concerts and learning to play the piano.

"That's one of the things we love about Pittsburgh, is that there always seem to be new and interesting and even old artists," he said. "It's great to take part in such a great musical city."

Pittsburgh's culture vultures can pause and marvel: One of the Steelers' greats has called this football town "a great musical city."

The defensive end's musical inclinations began when he was a kid singing in the church choir and observing the choral director conduct. He also played some trumpet for the school band, but it didn't stick, he said.

"I didn't really start listening to music a lot until I got to college," said Mr. Keisel, 35.

Brigham Young University was "where I really started to love music," he said. While in college, friends introduced him to different genres.

The man with Da Beard enjoys a smattering of groups who have performed locally, from Pearl Jam (whose show at Consol Energy Center was "one of the greatest concerts I've ever been to") to PSO holiday pops ("You can go down and sing music with them, and Santa's there"). Mr. Keisel is also a big fan of composer John Williams, who wrote the scores for "Star Wars," "E.T.," "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and other films.

"That's really how you feel what's going on in a movie," he said.

"His music was amazing, and he actually conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony once."

So did Mr. Keisel, who briefly conducted the PSO during a Led Zeppelin tribute concert last summer.

"I'm a big Led Zeppelin fan, and when we found out that the Pittsburgh Symphony was doing a concert, we had to go," he said.

Before the show, he met the conductor, who invited him to quarterback the orchestra for a song. "Of course, I jumped at the opportunity, and went up there and had a blast. The orchestra was just amazing," he said. "I was pretty much just dancing up there."

Now that the football season is over, Mr. Keisel can focus his energies on musical pursuits, including studying the piano.

"I started last year. We decided to buy a piano, and really the stuff I'm learning right now is very basic -- 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame,' 'Happy Birthday' -- it's really basic stuff. I'm basically teaching myself," he said.

Not for long, though -- his offseason plans include taking lessons from Randy Baumann of the WDVE-FM morning show.

And while he won't force them to learn instruments, Mr. Keisel hopes that his young children may learn by watching their dad "tickling the ivories." Jacob, Grace and William have been enjoying singing and dancing along to the Disney theme songs they received from their dad and mom Sarah for Christmas, and there is always music playing in the Keisel household.

"That's the great thing about music, is that it captivates you," said Mr. Keisel.

Elizabeth Bloom: ebloom@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1750. Twitter: @BloomPG. Blog: www.post-gazette.com/measuredwords.

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