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Crossing Boundaries from Past to Future: Pianist Conrad Tao on Crossover

Ruimin Wang

He's only 18 years old, but has experience way beyond his years.  He's a virtuoso pianist, a composer and an accomplished violinist.  And now he's a music festival founder and curator.  He's Conrad Tao.  As comfortable with Ravel and Rachmaninoff as with Reich, Eno and Meredith Monk, it seems he can do anything he wants to, and do it with excellence.  Did we say he's only 18?

Currently a student in the Columbia University/Juilliard School joint degree program, Tao claims that at 18 months, someone plopped him on a piano bench, and soon after he was plunking out the tune to "Mary Had A Little Lamb."  He'd been exposed to the piano through the lessons his sister was taking at the time, but it was decided that he was still too young for the keyboard.  So, Tao's parents (who were not musicians, by the way) gave him a 1/32-size violin to play.  He became an award-winning young violinist, eventually spending six summers with the Aspen Music Festival and School Orchestra, later performing with orchestras in Pennsylvania and Florida.  In 2009, Tao performed nine concerts featuring the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E-minor with the Symphony of the Americas in Boca Raton.  In the second half of those same concerts, he played Mendelssohn's First Piano Concerto.  

Tao has also won eight consecutive ASCAP Morton Gould Composer Awards from 2004 to 2011!  He continues his composition studies with Chrstopher Theofanidis and has composed for many prominent ensembles.  While some of his works explore pop music and electronica, he also composes beautiful traditional classical works as well.  Lately, Tao's been working on a commission from the Dallas Symphony to be performed in November 2013 for the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK.  

Having already released an iTunes exclusive EP for EMI called "The Julliard Sessions," Tao's debut EMI CD is "Voyages," due out on June 11, 2013, the same day he turns 19, and the same day as his new music festival, "UNPLAY," in New York City's PowerHouse Arena.

Did we mention that he was the only classical musician to make it onto the Forbes "30 Under 30?"  Did we have to?

Conrad Tao joins Jill Pasternak, with music by Ravel, Rachmaninoff and himself from his upcoming "Voyages" CD, on Crossover, Saturday morning at 11:30 on WRTI, with an encore the following Friday evening at 7 on HD2 and the All-Classical web stream at wrti.org.

It's his parents' fault. For Joe's sixth birthday, they gave him a transistor radio. All of a sudden, their dreams of having a doctor or lawyer (or even a fry cook) in the family went down the tubes.