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Dubbed a musician of "probing intellect and open-hearted vision" by the New York Times, Conrad Tao has, for nearly a decade, enjoyed a varied career as pianist, composer, violinist, and – most recently – presenter and curator. Born in Urbana, Illinois, to parents of Chinese descent, he was found playing children's songs on the piano at 18 months of age, gave his first piano recital at age 4, and four years later made his concerto debut performing Mozart's Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 414. In June of 2011, the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars and the Department of Education named Conrad a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, and the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts awarded him a YoungArts gold medal in music. Later that year, Conrad was named a Gilmore Young Artist, an honor awarded every two years highlighting the most promising American pianists of the new generation. Conrad was also the only classical musician on Forbes' 2011 “30 Under 30” list of people changing the world. In May of 2012, he was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant. On his 19th birthday in June of 2013, Conrad kicked off the inaugural edition of his UNPLAY Festival at the powerHouse

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Dubbed a musician of "probing intellect and open-hearted vision" by the New York Times, Conrad Tao has, for nearly a decade, enjoyed a varied career as pianist, composer, violinist, and – most recently – presenter and curator. Born in Urbana, Illinois, to parents of Chinese descent, he was found playing children's songs on the piano at 18 months of age, gave his first piano recital at age 4, and four years later made his concerto debut performing Mozart's Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 414. In June of 2011, the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars and the Department of Education named Conrad a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, and the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts awarded him a YoungArts gold medal in music. Later that year, Conrad was named a Gilmore Young Artist, an honor awarded every two years highlighting the most promising American pianists of the new generation. Conrad was also the only classical musician on Forbes' 2011 “30 Under 30” list of people changing the world. In May of 2012, he was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant.

On his 19th birthday in June of 2013, Conrad kicked off the inaugural edition of his UNPLAY Festival at the powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn. The festival, designated a "critics' pick" by Time Out New York and hailed by the New York Times for its "[impressively]...clever organization" and "endlessly engaging" performances, featured Conrad with guest artists performing a wide variety of new works. Across three nights encompassing electroacoustic music, performance art, youth ensembles, and much more, UNPLAY explored the fleeting ephemera of the Internet, the possibility of a 21st-century canon, and music's role in social activism and critique. That same week, Conrad, an exclusive EMI recording artist, released Voyages, his debut full-length album for the label, of which NPR wrote, "Tao proves himself to be a musician of deep intellectual and emotional means – as the thoughtful programming on this album...proclaims."

In November 2013, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra will premiere Conrad's new orchestral composition, "The World Is Very Different Now", commissioned in observance of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  This work is the latest in his accomplished career as a composer, which has featured eight consecutive ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, the Carlos Surinach Prize from BMI, and an oeuvre that already includes everything from symphonic music to string quartets to electroacoustic work to popular music.

During the 2013-2014 season, Conrad continues his formidable globe-trotting career as a pianist, with two tours of South America featuring Benjamin Britten’s piano concerto; two tours of Europe including performances on the ARTE network, with the Swedish Radio Orchestra, and a recital at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam; a third consecutive annual recital at Carnegie's Weill Hall; and performances in North America with the Detroit Symphony, the Colorado Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, the Pacific Symphony, the Utah Symphony, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Canada, among others.

Conrad currently attends the Columbia University/Juilliard School joint degree program and studies piano with Professors Yoheved Kaplinsky and Choong Mo Kang at Juilliard. He studies composition with Professor Christopher Theofanidis of Yale University.

 

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Reviews

"“The World Is Very Different Now” proved shapely and powerful, especially in its haunting, accepting if not optimistic coda. At 19, Mr. Tao knows his way around a large orchestra (here including scrap metal as percussion) as well as many an elder master."

The New York Times by James R. Oestreich

"Tao’s playing was almost startling in its clarity of sound and purpose... His talent is almost beyond belief"

Ottawa Citizen by Richard Todd

"Tao is a composer-pianist, blessed with prodigal performing skill and compositional imagination."

The Independent by Andy Gill

"Unlike many classical prodigies of similarly and stupendously young ages, Tao proves himself to be a musician of deep intellectual and emotional means... on Voyages, the pianist journeys along varied and alluring pathways, from the dreamy contemplation of the Ravel "Ondine (Wave)" movement to the jaggedly darting upon being section from his vestiges. His playing is strong and sure, and the effect is transcendent and beautiful."

NPR First Listen by Anastasia Tsioulcas

"At 17, the musician Conrad Tao is already impressively accomplished.That Mr. Tao, who gave his first recital at 4, is hugely gifted was evident from the outset. He opened with a cleanly articulated, fluid and fleet rendition of Bach’s “Italian” Concerto. He played the slow second movement with poise and feeling. His impressive technique allows him to navigate difficult works with ease; the finale of Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata unfolded in an exciting blaze of notes. He brought lovely colors and poetic nuances to three works by Liszt: “Au bord d’une Source,” “Vallée d’Obermann” and the “Rigoletto” Paraphrase.The program concluded with Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 7. Mr. Tao spoke eloquently about the work and played it with fiery panache."

The New York Times

"Meet Conrad Tao. A composer, concert pianist and award-winning violinist, he also runs a festival in Brooklyn, Unplay…his Wikipedia page features a photo of him with Hillary Rodham Clinton from when he was named a Davidson Fellow laureate. In 2011 he joined Lady Gaga, Adele and Taylor Swift on the Forbes list of the 30 most influential people under 30."

The New York Times

"Ferociously talented…anyone who has heard Conrad Tao, either in recital or on his newly released CD, Voyages, won’t have any trouble understanding how this bright young pianist and composer has racked up serious accolades."

TimeOut New York

"Eighteen-year-old Chinese-American pianist Conrad Tao was the soloist in Mozart's Piano Concerto No21. Excellently partnered by the orchestra, he generated some wonderful subtleties of phrasing during the opening movement, a light-as-air sense of line in the next and a different glint in the eye for every few bars of the finale. He played Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No6 as an encore with impressive panache and musicianship. The rapt attention and half smiles on the orchestra's faces said more than I can achieve in a few words here."

South China Morning Post

"Remember the name Conrad Tao. You’re going to be hearing a lot about him. Tao, who was to make his St. Louis Symphony Orchestra debut next season, stepped in to play Sergei Prokofiev’s tricky Piano Concerto No. 3 with the SLSO on less than three days’ notice, when an ailing Markus Groh had to cancel. The Prokofiev is a big, sweeping score that requires wit on the part of its interpreter while making intense technical demands. Tao flung it all off with insouciant ease and apparent enjoyment, in a real triumph that was fully supported and shared by the conductor and orchestra, in a score that’s a challenge for everyone. Tao’s flair and musicality won him a huge ovation, which he rewarded with an equally demanding encore. It will be rewarding to watch him continue to develop as an artist. That continued through the Prokofiev (where you’d have thought that Lintu and Tao had been working together for years) and the symphony."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Musical precociousness can manifest itself in countless ways, from the gifted child who loves to boast about his accomplishments to those who channel their talents into more productive outcomes. Conrad Tao clearly belongs to the latter group, a pianist of exceptional talent who made a spectacular debut on the Oklahoma City Philharmonic's 2012-13 season opener. In a lifetime of concertgoing, I've encountered many artists who use music to play the piano. Tao uses the piano to make music."

Look at OKC

"Whatever the age cut-off may be for child prodigies, 17-year-old pianist Conrad Tao has left that category somewhere back in his young past. To judge from his debut Saturday night with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Tao already owns a place among the world's musical virtuosos. Prodigious he is indeed. To put it plainly, Tao blew the doors off Saint-Saens' Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor with a performance that was no less seductive in its lyrical beauty than hair-raising in its technical brilliance."

Detroit News

"Conrad Tao is for real. The 17-year-old American pianist, whose star has only grown brighter in the 15 months since he bowled over the Abravanel Hall crowd as a last-minute substitute for Horacio Gutiérrez in Rachmaninoff’s Paganini Rhapsody, showed that his return invitation was well-earned. His bravura performance of another crowd-pleasing warhorse, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, elicited a rowdy ovation from the near-sellout house on Friday."

Salt Lake City Tribune

"The most impressive element here...was his breathtaking command of rubato and his ability...to make these works of Rachmaninoff, Debussy, and even Stravinsky sing."

D Dallas Magazine

"If NASA had a tenth of his talent, they’d be farming strawberries on Titan by now"

San Francisco Classical Voice

"the most prodigious individual performance since the first coming of Lang Lang in 1997"

Singapore Sun Times

"It would be silly to advise keeping an eye out for Conrad Tao, or to suggest that this young man is going places. He's already there, and he's only going to get better."

San Francisco Chronicle

"The story of Conrad Tao’s life in music begins the way tales of early talent often do: At 18 months, he toddled to the piano and started picking out “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Last month—a whole childhood later—Tao strode onto the stage of ­Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall and plunged into Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 7, a desperate wartime work shot through with terrified epiphanies. No 17-year-old should be able to do justice to one of the most bleakly adult pieces in the literature, yet he played it with aggressive charm and flashes of genuine wisdom."

New York Magazine

"It was a 17-year-old keyboard polymath from NYC named Conrad Tao, who stole the show with a once-in-a-lifetime performance of the rarely-encountered American Suite, Op. 98. Tao is ready for his own TV show: he plays music as if the composer were at his side, with color, joy and spontaneous poetry. He composes, studies, researches, writes. He uses words like "gestation" when he talks. Like that whiz kid on the West Coast, Conrad Tao should be licensed to operate by the time he's 21. "

All Things Strings

"It was Tao, who just turned 18, who delivered the most arresting performance, attacking the Second Rhapsody with a lethal combination of power, rhythmic thrust, technical perfection and sheer joy."

Aspen Times

""At a glance, the [Unplay Festival] three-concert series impresses with its clever organization... Observers of the contemporary-classical world frequently cite eroding boundaries between disparate art-music and popular styles. Tuesday’s program took musical melding as a starting point and then embraced other art forms.""

The New York Times by Steven Smith

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