Video of Conrad Tao performing Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 3 (excerpt) with the Russian National Orchestra, Constantine Kitsopoulos, conductor, Festival of the Arts BOCA, March 2010.
Conrad Tao (Web site: www.conradtao.com) has been playing music as long as he can remember. His parents discovered his love of music and innate skill in creating it when he was still a toddler. “I was found playing children’s songs at the piano at around the age of 18 months,” Tao explained. “Since then, it’s all been a bit of a whirlwind. I think I just felt an intense, perhaps even primal, connection with music from a very early age.”
Tao’s early exploration on the piano as a toddler eventually gave way to his becoming a skilled performer of the piano and violin, as well as an accomplished composer. By the end of eighth grade, Tao signed with arts managers at IMG Artists and decided that he needed a flexible alternative to traditional high school in order to have time to nurture his musical talents.
“I realized that a rigid schedule and typical attendance policies weren’t going to work and that I was going to need some more flexibility,” Tao said. “Indiana University High School stood out because it had a set of curriculum requirements, a solid amount of course work, and most importantly, offered a rigorous and comprehensive education. I knew that I wouldn’t be sacrificing anything in my education by choosing IUHS over a traditional high school.”
The flexibility of the IUHS program has allowed Tao to continue his high school education, study music in the Julliard precollege program, and travel throughout the United States and around the world, performing both solo and orchestral concerts. In addition to his many concerts in the U.S., he has performed in Mexico, Paris, London, Moscow, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Italy, Germany, and Chile.
“It isn’t always easy to be an active performer as well as a student,” Tao said. “It’s a delicate balance that you never quite learn to master – but that’s also part of the fun. I love doing all of these things at once and giving myself as many challenges as I can, because I learn so much from the experiences that result. Everything I teach myself or see or do can be applied to a larger framework, and this is what I really love about being a teenager, a high school student, and a working musician all at once.”
In addition to the flexibility and rigorous course work Tao expected to find when he started courses at IUHS, he was surprised to discover some other benefits of the program he hadn’t expected. “Being an IUHS student has taught me more about myself than I could have ever imagined,” Tao explained. “When I’m examining the satiric undertones of Gulliver’s Travels or writing an essay about John F. Kennedy’s influence over the United States, I am left to my own devices, forced to think for myself; I am consulting my own thoughts and writing down my ideas. I have the freedom to look at the subject at hand from countless angles.”
Tao has discovered that freedom does not come without responsibility. “I have to set my own deadlines and do schoolwork through self-motivation. I’ve gained so much self-discipline as a result of IUHS, and through that I’ve also gained self-respect. In elementary school, I could never have imagined that one day I would be choosing to do homework of my own volition.”
Tao will graduate from IUHS in spring 2011. He has applied to Columbia, Harvard, Julliard, Princeton, and Yale. “When I look ahead, I don’t see clear goal posts or milestones, per se,” Tao said. “I want to continue learning – from classes, from mentors, and from everyday experiences. The most important goal for me in the next 10 years is to continue being the best musician I can be, which means to always keep an open mind and look out for new ideas, and to continue loving music as much as I do now.”