Getting to Know Conrad Tao
Are we farming strawberries on Titan yet? One of our favorite quotes about our upcoming piano soloist, Conrad Tao – “If NASA had a tenth of his talent, they’d be farming strawberries on Titan by now” (SF Classical Voice) – makes me very excited to get to hear this up-and-coming phenom live and in person in less than three weeks.
What were you doing in 1994? If you’re like most of us here at PSO, just being born into this world isn’t the response you’d give either. Well, Conrad Tao may be young, but we put that in the “pros” column. When we were his age, we were most likely just trying to get our start in life, but Conrad has already had numerous awards and honors to his credit. His bio below will serve as a glimpse into the already extremely accomplished life of this extraordinary artist, who will be gracing our concert halls November 4th & 5th. We can’t wait to share this experience with you all!
Conrad Tao’s Bio:
“Conrad Tao has appeared worldwide as a pianist and composer and has been dubbed a musician of “probing intellect and open-hearted vision,” by The New York Times, a “thoughtful and mature composer,” by NPR, and “ferociously talented,” by TimeOut New York. In June 2011, Tao was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars and the Department of Education. That same month, the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts awarded him a YoungArts gold medal in music, and later that year he was also named a Gilmore Young Artist, highlighting him as a promising pianist of the new generation. In May of 2012, he was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant.
During the 2015-16 season, Tao performed with the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic, Pacific Symphony, Brazilian Symphony, and Calgary Philharmonic, among others. He also performs recitals in Europe and throughout the United States with repertoire including Bach, Frederic Rzewski, Rachmaninoff, and Julia Wolfe. Past notable symphonic engagements have included the San Francisco Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Toronto Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Detroit Symphony, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, and Nashville Symphony. Tao maintains a close relationship with the Aspen Music Festival, and has appeared at the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, Brevard Music Center, Ravinia Festival, and Mostly Mozart Festival.
In June 2013, Tao kicked off the inaugural UNPLAY Festival at the powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn, New York, which he curated and produced. The festival, designated a “critics’ pick,” by TimeOut New York and hailed by The New York Times for its “clever organization” and “endlessly engaging” performances, featured Tao with guest artists performing a 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 month, the Warner Classics recording artist also released his first full-length for the label, Voyages, that was declared a “spiky debut” by the New Yorker’s Alex Ross. Of the album, NPR wrote: “Tao proves himself to be a musician of deep intellectual and emotional means – as the thoughtful programming on this album…proclaims.” His sophomore album, Pictures, which slots works by David Lang, Toru Takemitsu, Elliott Carter, and Tao himself alongside Mussorgsky’s familiar and beloved “Pictures at an Exhibition”, was released in October, 2015; the New York Times’s Anthony Tommasini called it “a fascinating album [by] a thoughtful artist and dynamic performer…played with enormous imagination, color and command.”
Tao’s career as composer has garnered eight consecutive ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards and the Carlos Surinach Prize from BMI. In the 2013-14 season, while serving as the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s artist-in-residence, Tao premiered his orchestral composition, “The world is very different now.” Commissioned in observance of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the work was described by The New York Times as “shapely and powerful.” In 2016, Tao closes his residency in Dallas with a new work for the orchestra, “Alice“, to be premiered in June. Most recently, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia commissioned a new work for piano, orchestra, and electronics, “An Adjustment”, which premiered in September 2015 with Tao at the piano. The Philadelphia Inquirer declared the piece abundant in “compositional magic,” a “most imaginative [integration of] spiritual post-Romanticism and ‘90s club music.”
Tao was born in Urbana, Illinois, in 1994. He has studied piano with Emilio del Rosario in Chicago and Yoheved Kaplinsky in New York, and composition with Christopher Theofanidis.”