Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spotlight on Parker Wilkson

Parker Wilkson, right, performing with his Rock School band Wasted Youth
at a Rock School Blowout Concert.
From classical to rock to jazz, pianist Parker Wilkson is doing it all.

One day, he's jamming on the keyboards playing a cover of Creep by Radiohead. The next day, he goes from improvising on the piano to Miles Davis’ Freddie Freeloader with his jazz ensemble, to creating a sinister mood with the dark, classical score of a live theater production.

Regardless of the genre, “When I play music, I feel such a strong connection to it,” said Parker.

This Patel Conservatory music student recently got his first professional gig accompanying for Jobsite Theater’s production of Gorey Stories opening this Wednesday.

Although Gorey Stories is his first professional role, he's got a résumé of accomplishments. Oh, and he's only 14.

The Classics to Coldplay
Parker started piano lessons when he was three years old. He learned the classics and did well at competitions. But his own voice began emerging when he was ten years old and he improvised on a Chopin piece he was working on for a competition.

“His coach told him it was really good, but not to do that at the competition,” said James Wilkson, Parker’s dad.

Parker performed his version of Chopin at the competition anyway, and received a perfect score from the judges, according to his dad.

“He had a lot more wisdom about what he wanted than any of us. About that time, he started playing everything from classical to Coldplay,” said James.

Parker was born in the Tampa area, and moved with his family to Idaho, then moved back to Land O’ Lakes two years ago. He began accompanying for his middle school choir, where he was noticed by a theater teacher and asked to accompany for a high school production of Grease, then another production, West Side Story.

Friends suggested he come to the Patel Conservatory for Rock School, which he did, and it’s been a domino effect ever since.

He was chosen to work with the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra for the Spotlight Awards; he had the opportunity to play before the Florida Orchestra at Raymond James Stadium; he accompanied for PCYT’s summer production of Normal, the Musical, and from that was asked to do Gorey Stories. He’s also in two Rock School bands and the Patel Conservatory Jazz Quartet, and he takes voice lessons.

James’ dad said that they owe a great deal to the Conservatory not only for the opportunities Parker’s gotten, but for the friends they’ve made.

“In addition to the opportunity, experience and exposure he’s gotten through the Conservatory, he gets to meet other people who think like him,” said James.

Expressing Himself through Music
Parker was recently chosen, along with fellow Rock School band member Matthew Sichterman, as the recipient of a scholarship underwritten by the Gasparilla Music Festival.

As the recipients of those scholarships, the two boys will get the opportunity to work behind-the-scenes with the festival in the spring and get some backstage privileges.

“They’re here all the time and they’re involved in so many different things that they were deserving recipients,” said Dee Lynch, Patel Conservatory’s staff accompanist.

With two different performances for the upcoming Rock School Blowout, performances with the Jazz Quartet and a three-week run of Gorey Stories, how does he keep up with it all?

“It was difficult at first going from Rock School to Gorey Stories, transitioning from different genres. But Patel’s taught me how to play so many different styles of music, it’s gotten a little easier,” said Parker. “I enjoy learning all the music, especially this play (Gorey Stories), it’s a unique sound.”

He says that working with his instructors in both Rock School and the Jazz Quartet, where he’s learning a lot about improv, has taught him more than various styles of music.

“When I first joined (the Conservatory), I was a little uptight, a little nervous about showing emotion. I’ve gotten more comfortable with myself, and become a much better musician overall,” said Parker. “Patel’s really taught me how to express myself through music.”

You can hear this up-and-coming talent at the following performances:

Jobsite Theater’s Gorey Stories, playing at the Shimberg Playhouse at the Straz Center, Oct. 24 through Nov. 18, 2012.
Rock School Blowout at the Jaeb Theater at the Straz Center, Dec. 1, 2012, at 1 p.m.

1 comment:

  1. that's one of my best friends!!!