Twelve-year-old Piano Prodigy appearing at Skaneateles Festival

Eagle Newspapers 08/10/07More articles
Conrad Tao was just 18 months old and still in diapers when he crawled up on a piano bench and began playing tunes he'd heard on the radio. At age 3 he wrote his first piano piece, which he named “Congrajulashons” because, like Mozart, he could compose music before he could spell. This sensational young performer, hailed as a true piano prodigy, will soon be making his way to the Skaneateles Festival.

Now 12 years old, Tao is fast becoming a seasoned professional, having performed with prominent orchestras since the age of four. Festival audiences are sure to be astounded at Tao’s amazing musicianship, especially at his tender age.

Earlier this year, Conrad Tao signed with IMG Artists, considered the global leader in the arts management business. Said IMG Artists’ Charles Letourneau of Tao, “Being the top artist management firm in the world, people constantly refer very talented - I should say extraordinarily talented - young musicians from around the world to us. But then, once in a blue moon, someone appears who truly defies description. Conrad is already a great artist, he just happens to be 12 years old. We are deeply honored to have the opportunity to nurture his talent from such an early age.”

Originally from Urbana, Illinois, Tao now lives in New York City with his parents and sister, and is an eighth grader at the Professional Children’s School. He also attends the Juilliard pre-college division program, where he studies piano and violin.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Conrad said “I am sort of a normal kid, but sort of not. I'm basically interested in the same things as other kids when it comes to books and movies and such … And I’m not such a big fan of practicing. But I have to do it or else it won’t work out for me.”

When he has time for typical kid things, Conrad likes to read nonfiction. (He doesn’t like fantasy novels except Harry Potter.)

He also goes to movies: “’Spider-Man’ was good, but I liked ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ better. ‘Spider-Man’ was a little hard to understand.”

Luckily for everyone else, understanding music is no problem for Tao.

Conrad Tao has already established a place for himself in the world of classical music.

Making his official debut at eight years old with the Utah Chamber Music Festival Orchestra playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A major, he has also performed with numerous other leading orchestras, including the Aspen Festival Orchestra, the California Symphony and the Corpus Christie Symphony Orchestra.

Conrad is also a gifted composer whose work has been performed by professional orchestras. He has earned recognition for his compositions since the age of seven, winning the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer award in 2004, 2005 and 2006. In February 2007, his new composition, “Duet for Erhu and Violin,” a commissioned work by the Art Institute of Chicago, had its world premiere at the Institute’s Midwest Meets East concert. His work has also been featured on the Chicago’s WFMT and National Public Radio’s From the Top and Performance Today.

Incredibly, Conrad Tao is an award-winning violinist as well. After winning the 2003 Walgreens National Concerto Competition, he performed the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor with the Midwest Young Artists Concert Orchestra at age 8. He is a recipient of the Stradivari Society violin for the past three years and currently plays a 7/8 size Gagliano violin, built in 1750.

At 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24, at the First Presbyterian Church in Skaneateles, Conrad Tao will take part in a special Behind the Scenes: Musical Mentors pre-concert event, which also includes rising stars the Jupiter String Quintet and Gilbert Kalish and Roger Tapping, revered masters of the piano and viola. During this lively interchange between young and veteran musicians, Tao and the other distinguished artists will demonstrate the unique musical relationships between students and teachers, and explore the traditions through which music is passed down through the generations. Behind the Scenes will be followed by an 8 p.m. concert featuring the Jupiter String Quartet, Kalish, and Tapping (Tao does not perform on this concert).

Conrad Tao will make his Skaneateles Festival concert debut 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 25 at the lakeside estate Brook Farm. Audiences can sit under the stars and thrill to Conrad’s performance of Mozart’s brilliant Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467. Conductor Hugh Keelan will also lead the Festival Chamber Orchestra in music by Gluck, Ibert and Haydn. Listeners of all ages are welcome to arrive as early as 6:00 p.m., bring a picnic, and find a comfortable spot on the lawn to enjoy the magical ambience of the Skaneateles Festival. For more information or to order tickets, visit or call 685-7418.

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