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Young Oro-Medonte musician finds keys to success

Connor Taylor, 13, won international piano competition this summer
2018-09-12 Connor Taylor piano 1
Connor Taylor plays piano at teacher Cheryl Graham's house in Oro-Medonte. The 13-year-old recently won an international competition in California. Nathan Taylor/OrilliaMatters

From Simcoe County to California, Connor Taylor has been hitting all the right notes this summer.

The 13-year-old pianist from the Craighurst area in Oro-Medonte has been collecting awards and accolades at every level, from the local scene to the international stage.

After winning the Grade 8 piano division at the Ontario Music Festivals Association provincials in June, Taylor took on a new challenge: Outstanding Young Musicians International.

First, he had to perform in a regional competition in Toronto. He placed first in all of his classes and won the Best Musicianship and Most Gifted awards.

Next on the list: nationals. During that event, he performed well enough to qualify for global finals.

In late July, he was flown to California for the competition.

His piano teacher, Cheryl Graham, knew Taylor would be facing stiff competition. He was one of 80 young musicians from around the world taking part.

“We told him, ‘If you go in expecting to win, you might be disappointed,’” Graham said.

The point of his participation, she explained, was for him to get some experience in international competition.

He certainly gained that experience – and a first-place finish in the Grade 8 piano class. He so impressed the judges, he also was one of six competitors to receive the Signatory Youth Award and achieved first-class honours with distinction for scoring more than 90 out of 100.

“I knew some would be above his level, but his musicality helped him to stand out,” Graham said.

For Taylor, the competition was all about being able to play.

“I love performing,” he said. “Whenever I play, I want to make people feel what I feel through my music.”

His mom, Kasey, signed him up for piano lessons with Graham when he was five. It’s now a passion of his, but it wasn’t always so.

“I never really thought about piano much when I was that little,” he said. “It was fun, but I didn’t always have that drive to play.”

Now he enjoys learning and performing a range of work, from Romantic-era composers Frédéric Chopin and Edvard Grieg to more modern compositions.

Graham has proudly watched her pupil expand his musical horizons over the past eight years.

“He practises intelligently and he’s very passionate about music,” she said. “With all his skills he’s learned, he’s able to flourish with an advanced repertoire.”

When asked what his next goal is after winning at an international level, Taylor’s answer had nothing to do with awards.

“I want to learn to play bigger, more challenging pieces to see what I’m capable of,” he said.

Taylor has plenty of time to figure out what he wants to do for a career, and he does not yet know if it will involve music.

“I’m not sure if it’s going to be my career path, but it’s good to have this in my back pocket,” he said.

Taylor capped his incredible run Friday, when he performed at the Outstanding Young Musicians International Award Ceremony and Charity Fundraising Concert at the P.C. Ho Theatre in Scarborough. There, he received two financial scholarships, while Graham was honoured with an Outstanding Teacher Recognition Award.