A Father and the Son He Never Knew He Had Were Brought Together By Music
“Music is the universal language of mankind.” —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
No truer words have ever been spoken, especially given the fact that music is the precise reason Tony Thomas and his biological son, Robert Klingbeil—who he never knew existed until eight years ago—were reunited.
Robert’s biological mother, Kathy, and biological father, Tony, attended high school together in Southern California.
“Tony never knew she was pregnant,” Robert says. “Kathy’s family made the decision that her pregnancy would be kept secret, and the baby given up for adoption.
“I thought it was a really neat thing when my parents told me I was adopted—that they chose me. I had a great upbringing, and am also very grateful for this storybook ending in finding my biological family.”
Robert received his masters in piano performance—a path he didn’t set out to take.
“I intended to study biology in college, then go to medical school,” he says. “But after much soul-searching, I declared my major in music.”
After graduating, Robert worked at Amro Music in Memphis, a Steinway piano dealership. Tony was working for Sherman Clay in Southern California—ironically enough the largest Steinway piano distributor in the United States.
In 2009, when Robert and his wife, Kelly, were expecting their first child, they decided to try to find his biological father. From conversations with the maternal side of his family, Robert knew his biological mother’s name, and his aunt mentioned Tony worked at a music store in Southern California.
“This was my big aha moment,” Robert says.
He asked his vice president and owner if they knew a Tony Thomas, and, ironically enough, they both knew Tony when he worked for Sherman Clay. Bingo.
By this time, Tony had left Sherman Clay and moved to Rapid City, South Dakota, in 2008. His father had just passed away, and as he was leaving the mortuary where he had been planning his dad’s funeral, his phone rang. The conversation went something like this:
Tony – “Hello?”
Robert – “Hi, my name is Robert Klingbeil. I’m with Amro Music in Memphis.”
Tony – “Okay. How can I help you?”
Robert – “I have a random question. Did you ever hang out with a girl named Kathy Boone back in the ’70s?”
Tony – “I haven’t heard that name in a while, but yes, I did. Why do you ask?”
Robert – I told him that Kathy was my biological mother and then said, “I believe you’re my biological dad.”
Tony – “That can’t be. Kathy and I didn’t have any children.” But after listening to Robert’s response, I realized he may be right. Tony said it would be prudent for them to get paternity tests.
This phone call took place in early 2010,” Tony says. “About three weeks later Robert called, confirming the positive results.”
How fitting that their first meeting was at a piano store in Atlanta.
“Finding out I have a biological son within days of losing my father—I was a bit overwhelmed, to say the least,” Tony says.
From this point forward, Tony and Robert talked almost every day.
This story wouldn’t be complete unless without mentioning Brandon Herrenbruck, vice president at Steinway Piano Gallery in Nashville. Both men knew Brandon and ended up accepting jobs offers from him and moving to Nashville, where they now work together at Steinway.
Determination. Resilience. Fate. Call it what you will. It is an incredible story how a father and son reunited under the most extraordinary of circumstances. This is, indeed, music to our ears.
Family is like music …
Some high notes,
Some low notes,
But always a beautiful song.