His waking hours were filled with music, but Scott Cushnie’s apartment at a downtown Toronto senior’s home has fallen eerily silent.
The storied Canadian pianist who played with rock royalty like Aerosmith, Duane Allman, Ronnie Hawkins and Robbie Robertson, hasn’t been seen or heard from in weeks.
Toronto police say Cushnie, 80, was reported missing on Aug. 29. He was last seen on Aug. 7 in the King Street East and River Street area not far from his apartment wearing a yellow jacket and beige pants.
He’s described as six feet tall, with short, grey hair and a medium build. He’s legally blind and wears dark glasses.
While the prolific musician known as Professor Piano may not be recognizable to the average Torontonian, you’ve likely heard his piano playing.
Gold and platinum records from his days playing on Aerosmith’s iconic album Toys in the Attic, adorn his walls.
Guitarist Mitch Lewis, who has played in bands with Cushnie since the late ’70s, calls him a “one of a kind” eccentric with a sharp mind and great intellectual curiosity.
Lewis and Cushnie played in the Rockin’ Deltoids featuring Professor Piano from 1979 into the ’90s, eventually morphing into the swing jump band the Canadian Aces.
“He’s funny and extremely well-informed about just about any subject you could imagine,” Lewis said of his long-time friend and musical collaborator.
“The last time I saw him I took him out after his birthday in July for dinner and there was no dementia, nothing like that. I don’t figure that dementia or a diminution of any of his faculties is a factor here. I don’t know what’s happened to him.”
“We are grabbing at straws,” he said. “It’s so unlike him to just disappear.”
Andrea Reid has been a close friend of Cushnie’s for the last decade and also says he was mentally sharp and independent despite his impaired vision.
“He gets around very well. He certainly takes transit well and he walks around well,” she noted.
“Unfortunately we haven’t heard anything definitive one way or the other. The police are at this point searching waterways. I can’t imagine him going for a walk down the river or something. But anything is possible at this point.”
Reid says Cushnie’s bank activity stopped around Aug. 7, the day he was last seen.
“I’ve gone through his place with the detectives and unfortunately nothing is missing as if he’d gone away for any kind of length of time,” she added.
“He was a single man. He never married or had kids. His friends are his family. He does have siblings and nieces and nephews that he’s close with, but music was really him. He started the day and ended the day with music.
“He’s just an absolute sweetheart and a gentle, gentle soul.”
Despite his friend’s ominous disappearance, Lewis says he’s clinging to hope that Professor Piano will resurface and start tickling the ivories again like the old days.
“I’m really hoping that something weird has happened and he’s going to show up and phone me up and give me shit for making a big fuss about nothing.”