Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Crescendo: The Story of a Musical Genius Who Forever Changed a Southern Town” as Want to Read:
Crescendo: The Story of a Musical Genius Who Forever Changed a Southern Town
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Crescendo: The Story of a Musical Genius Who Forever Changed a Southern Town

4.54  ·  Rating details ·  104 ratings  ·  43 reviews
A story of mercy, miracles, and melody—and above all else: love.

During the Great Depression, Fred Allen is born poor and hungry in the shadow of rural Georgia’s infamous cotton mills. By the time Fred is three years old, he can play hymns on the piano without missing a note. In kindergarten, he amazes adults with Chopin. Terrified that Fred’s genius is proof of a curse, hi
Paperback, 336 pages
Published July 16th 2019 by Thomas Nelson
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Crescendo, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Crescendo

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.54  · 
Rating details
 ·  104 ratings  ·  43 reviews

More filters
Sort order
A thought-provoking and touching chronicle of a life well-lived.

Fred Allen is born poor and hungry in a small Southern Georgia town. By the time Fred is three years old he can play hymns on a old upright piano without missing a note. In kindergarten, he amazes adults with Chopin. When Fred is cut off from his only source of joy, he sinks into a morass of neglect, depression and hunger. When Eleanor, a woman just released from prison, rents a room in Fred’s family’s dilapidated home, thin
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Crescendo is so much more than just an inspiring story of a man overcoming unsurmountable odds, it is also an amazing tribute to a grandfather. Although this book is nonfiction, it reads like a novel and was hard to put down!
Susan Peterson
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Julie Perkins Cantrell and Allen Cheney, thank you for this beautiful and inspirational story. Fred Allen, born to abject poverty and depravity, was a musical prodigy from a very young age, but he was also a lost soul, trying to fit in, looking for love and warmth. His musical talent became his savior, along with all of the mentors that guided him from the time he was a young boy and throughout his entire career. Fred’s story is incredibly moving, beautifully written by Julie Cantrell and Fred A ...more
The Lit Bitch
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a book that I debated and debated and debated about. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read it since it’s a non-fiction book. But then I also kept seeing so many great reviews about it that I felt like I was missing out on something wonderful.

I kept putting it off and ultimately decided to wait and see how my July reading shaped up and promised myself that if I had some time, I would try and squeeze this one in.

My mom is a pianist and its always such treat to hear her play so I felt like i
Connie Masson
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly enjoying readiing Crescendo! Love learning about the life of this man and his family in the south in the 50’s. Being from the south and being a child in the 50’s, it intrigued me to learn more about this family and what they overcame and how they succeeded. My love of music and years playing tie me to this couple. Their differing perspectives and teamwork and sacrifice all remind me of me - both of them. More to read still - 45% read. I’m a retired educator so I do not have students t ...more
Emily P
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
An unusual story of a man whose piano skills rival those of masters, "Cresendo" reads like a fiction story with impossible odds. The amazing thing about "Cresendo" is that it is a non fiction title based on Fred Allen's real experiences.

The authors narrate a book that is hard to put down, inspiring and heartbreaking, all at the same time. Can one person's musical talents change the world? How can we use our gifts to bring beauty where there is none? Will the dreams we have be feasible in this d
Deborah Blanchard
This book left me filled with emotion. It's the story of the life of a musical prodigy, Fred Allen, and his wife, Winnie. Fred's life is music. He could play piano by ear from the age of three. He came from a difficult upbringing and I could feel his pain. Life is about choices and Fred loved music. We all can listen to music and have it transport us to a memory, a feeling. Fred brought this out in the children he taught. I felt such strong emotions while reading this book. From sadness to happi ...more
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
At three years of age, Fred Allen could play Mozart sonatas on the piano without missing a note. But in spite of his obvious talent, Fred’s parents discouraged him from expressing his creativity and intelligence, even going so far as locking him away from the old piano in their home.
Inspirational story that while true is written with the feel of a fiction novel, in that it will capture you. This is very much a story about how one person that has every thing going against them, rises from that t
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is the perfect story of how one person can make a difference in someone’s life. Fred Allen grew up in a home that offered him very little in life. But throughout his life Fred was fortunate to encounter here and there that special someone who could see the worth in Fred even though Fred could not see it in himself.

The story is beautifully written, taking us on Fred’s journey as he works to make it in New York City. His determination and strong work ethics open many doors for him. It w
Miss W Book Reviews
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tall-poppy-books
Crescendo is an incredible story that is heartwarming as much as it is heartbreaking. Set in a cotton mill southern georgia town, the well written imagery enables the reader to see the story of a man who overcame the greatest of odds to bless others with his musical talent.

This is a story of an incredible musical genius and surviving against all odds.

This is an amazing book that should be read by everyone. If you love music, this book will make your heart sing. If you have been bullied or hurt
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
You don't have to be a musician to enjoy this very sweet, true story of a deeply talented man and his family, including his wonderful wife. I won't recap the story, but I really liked rooting for Fred and I relished his talent and successes. This is literature, so there are no action scenes, and majority of it is in third person. But there are ups and downs, and it is heartwarming in the end. It's great to be reminded there are people like Fred and Winnie! 4.5 stars. Recommended.

I really appreci
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
I had never heard about this Fred Allen and his wife Winnie and their achievements working with youth. Fred began his life in poverty, neglect and abuse, yet he was an intellectual and musical genius. What also set him apart is his way of reaching people through his music and love. This biography reads almost like fiction--no dry facts and dates here--and this is a credit to the authors. I was drawn in by the people in the book and by the life Fred chose, considering the many opportunities he ha ...more
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I don't read a lot of non-fiction but when I saw this book, I had to read it. And I am really glad that I did. In this day and age with heroes being sports figures or actors, this is the story of a real hero. A man who had a gift that he shared with his students and subsequently made them not only better students but more importantly better citizens of the world.

This is the story of a life well lived. Of a man who had nothing but ended up with love and respect from so many people. Fred Allen has
Jan Ward
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
To see the story of a person who beats his past into a victory and then becomes a master teacher will lift your day and inspire you to teach the students (who may or may not be in a school and you may or may not be an official teacher) who come into your life. This story of Winnie and Fred Allen is so full of love and yet the struggle to overcome hard things will inspire and encourage. At the close of the book, I could only say, "Thank you, Lord".
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Book Review

Crescendo: The True Story of a Musical Genius Who Forever Changed a Southern Town by Authors Allen Cheney and Julie Cantrell

Where do I begin...

This story, a true story, had me completely and utterly captivated.

It all began in rural, small-town Georgia, surrounded by the the infamous Cotton Mills during The Great Depression. A child born into poverty, neglect and abuse. As the young musical prodigy, Fred Allen, faces dire circumstance and despicable acts hovering around every corner at
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-read-2019
This was such a good book! It was uplifting, it was a hard to put down book! I didn’t really realize it was nonfiction, it flowed so well! Thanks to Netgalley for the early copy
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This story is absolutely captivating and takes the reader on a journey of how one life can rise out of pure brokenness and impact thousands of others for the better. The heart behind this story is absolutely stunning! It leaves the reader asking, what am I going to do with the gifts, talents, and one life I’ve been given? I’d say that all teachers and musicians need to read this story but that’s not it. Everyone needs to read this inspiring story. Can’t wait to see this turned into a movie! With ...more
Aug 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Go into this book knowing that it's a hagiography, and Fred Allen is presented as practically perfect. Born with a cowl (that is, his mother's water didn't break, which was a sign of something), Allen showed musical gifts from a very young age, playing songs he'd only heard once. He also had natural charisma and was very good at school—which in a small, poor, Southern community was all the proof needed to confirm some's superstitions that he was cursed in some way. But others saw Allen's extraor ...more
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I started this book with no expectations. I’ve never been big into biographies and thought, ok let’s give this one a try and see. I was absolutely, completely, emotionally, physically, mentally, lovingly, blown away. From the first to the very last word, including all the letters and all the thanks at the end. This is a book everyone I know needs to read. A huge must on your TBR list.

This book was an emotional rollercoaster that takes you on a ride you possibly won’t ever forget. The story of Fr
Dan Curnutt
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an interesting book detailing the life of Fred Allen a man who was gifted with a musical talent that he used to change everyone around him. The book tells the story of his life from when he was poor and neglected by his family to when he was pushed and prodded by teachers who saw the gift that he had been blessed with. It’s a great testimony to what can happen for any person when others take interest in them and help them to fulfill their gifts and dreams.

Fred wasn’t just handed a gifted li
Charlotte Lynn
Jul 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am a music fan so that is the first reason I picked up this book. The second reason? Look at this cover with the beautiful background and the wonderful grand piano (which I dream of owning one day). Seeing the cover had me knowing that I had to read this book. Once I read the first chapter I knew that I was hooked on an amazing, uplifting, and true story that would leave me thinking about the story of Fred and Winnie Allen long after I would finish the book.

Fred is born to a family of lower-c
Susan (The Book Bag)
Crescendo starts as a heartbreaking, sad story about a very talented, abused little boy which turns into an upbeat and inspiring tale of a brilliantly successful and admired man. This book is based on real people and is a real accounting of their lives but it reads like a wonderfully woven work of fiction.

Fred Allen and his wife, Winnie are amazing people who have lived a beautiful life together, making a difference in so many people's lives. It wasn't always an easy life, but their love for ea
Kerry Croucier
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow, just Wow. This was an amazing story from beginning to end, even more so because it is a true story. The story took me by surprise and captivated me until the end. I went into this without knowing much about Fred Allen and ended it with such a huge respect for him and his accomplishments. This book is a testament to how one person can make a difference in someone’s life.
Uplifting, inspirational, and beautifully written, this is a biography that should not b missed. It I so well-done, you w
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If we are lucky, we have had at least one person in our lives who has made an impact. It may have been an encouraging word when we most needed it, a group we joined and benefited from, something that created a turning point in our life when we most needed it. Fred & Winnie Allen provides that for countless students in Thomasville. This is a beautiful story about a man born into poverty and harsh familial conditions who, through music, found love, self-acceptance, and his true purpose in life ...more
Lynn Barbre
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Probably my favorite read of the year. "Fred Allen's story reminds us that there is no art without courage and that significance in life is measured not by the gifts we're given but by the gifts we give."
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a Troupe alumna, I closed this book with tears in my eyes. Although I respected Mr. Allen immensely, I had no idea about his childhood and the obstacles he overcame to become a man who has influenced countless lives. Even if you’re not from Thomasville, Georgia, you’ll appreciate this well told, inspiring story about Fred and Winnie Allen.
Cristie Underwood
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle
This biography was well researched and contained a lot of information that I hadn’t previously read in other books. The author’s attention to detail is evident in the writing. Highly recommend!
Jul 03, 2019 rated it did not like it
I hate to say it but I didn't enjoy this story. I'm not sure exactly why but I just wasn't feeling it.
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In a world where we are surrounded by so much negativity, this book was a breath of fresh air. This was such a beautifully written story about an amazing man, that will stay with me for a while. I am so glad that Fred Allen & Winnie’s story is a true story, and I wish I had had the chance to study music with them.
Claire Fullerton
When a book weaves a journey that is more than the sum of its parts, it achieves the full potential of depicting art as life and simultaneously, life as art.
Crescendo is a book with a heartbeat. That it is captivatingly written in novel form gives it a magical, alluring feeling. It involves the reader by depicting the real-life story of a supernaturally gifted musician named Fred Allen, who comes from a desperate, impoverished family in an insignificant town in South Georgia. The book transcend
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
Allen Cheney was born and raised in Thomasville Georgia. Ever close to his southern Georgia roots while navigating through his many creative endeavors in Los Angeles, Allen Cheney finds sharing his grandparents, Fred and Winnie Allen's life story the pinnacle project for his career. “I have always had an unbelievable bond with my grandparents, Fred and Winnie Allen. They instilled in me a creative ...more