Noah S. Gray-Cabey ’16 makes an impression on anyone who meets him. From across Harvard Yard, any observer would notice his freshly-sculpted Mohawk and wrestler’s physique—wide shoulders and thick arms fill out his signature charcoal pea coat. But for those who get to know him, it is Gray-Cabey’s easygoing nature, admirable sense of modesty, and innate impulsiveness that resonate beyond the first impression.
It is partly this sense of spontaneity that has led Gray-Cabey to acquire a list of interests and accomplishments beyond that of the typical Harvard freshmen.
At age five, he became the youngest pianist ever to play an accompanied solo at the Sydney Opera House. In addition, he performed on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” as a child and starred in two hit television series— “My Wife and Kids” and “Heroes.” And at age 15, he opened his Harvard acceptance letter.
Yet instead of sharing his resume of accomplishments, Gray-Cabey prefers to talk about other interests, like his wrestling training at a mixed martial arts gym in Central Square. He also might mention a nutrition tip that he picked up in his freshman seminar or rattle off film trivia.
For Gray-Cabey, all of his abilities—from his acting to his knowledge of nutrition—play into his goal of being “the ultimate Renaissance man.”
“If you are successful at everything then you can’t be held down,” he says. “That’s an idea that I try to live by, being well rounded with acting, music, athletics, and academics.”
As with any accomplished person with diverse interests, persistent hard work has been crucial to Gray-Cabey’s success. But the former child star’s laundry list of accomplishments also has been encouraged by another trait—a penchant for impulsive decision making.
Embodying these characteristics, Gray-Cabey has succeeded everywhere from the concert hall to the gym.
Gray-Cabey set off on the path to becoming a Renaissance man before he could articulate this ambition.
After listening to his father play, a four-year-old Gray-Cabey insisted on studying the piano, attempting to emulate what he had heard.
“[My parents] didn’t push me into anything,” Gray-Cabey reflects. “In fact, when I asked him how to play piano, he told me no, that I was too young.”
This initial resistance from his parents did not stop him. Gray-Cabey badgered his father, Shawn Cabey, and the elder Cabey eventually submitted to his son’s requests. These lessons with his father led Gray-Cabey to become one of the most successful child pianists in the world.
From age four to six, Gray-Cabey’s burgeoning talent took him around the world—from an accompanied solo at the Sydney Opera House to a non-profit concert at an orphanage in Jamaica. During this period he appeared on “Jay Leno,” “Good Morning America,” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
Despite his success as a pianist, Gray-Cabey did not hesitate to leave concert halls for production sets.