Meet American Pianists Association Fellow, Van Cliburn Bronze Medallist and Conference Artist Christopher Taylor

Article excerpt

Christopher Taylor is a rare kind of guy. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University with a degree in mathematics, has co-authored a paper with the philosopher Daniel Dennett, can program your computer and, oh yes, just happens to be a first-rate prize-winning pianist.

Currently one of two Classical Fellows of the American Pianists Association, he also has been the Bronze Medallist in the 1993 Van Cliburn Competition, a Gilmore Young Artist, first-prize winner in the William Kapell Competition and the recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant. His New York performance last winter of the formidable "Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus" by Messiaen prompted Anthony Tommasini to write in the New York Times that Taylor's "brilliant performance ... was the highlight of the season." Known somewhat for his keen ability to decipher complex scores and his unconventional programming, Christopher's repertoire runs the gamut from the Bach Goldberg Variations to the Boulez Second Sonata to rags by Scott Joplin and William Bolcom. And when not playing New York recitals to critical acclaim or reading mathematics texts, he is assistant professor of piano at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he lives with his wife, Denise, and young daughter, Ellie.

A Naturally Curious Learner

The academic life comes naturally to "Kit," as he is known to his friends. His father is a physicist and his mother a high school English teacher in the university town of Boulder, Colorado. Taylor's first piano lessons were with MTNA member Julie Bees, then a doctoral student at the University of Colorado, now a professor at Wichita State. According to Julie, Kit's intellectual and musical curiosity were readily apparent from the first lesson, and he was constantly asking about all the details of the score. He brought the first movement of Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata for his first lesson. And while Bees wisely moved him to other repertoire, the Beethoven interest did not wane. Twenty-four years after that first lesson, he plays all thirty-two of the piano sonatas. While at Harvard, Kit had piano lessons with Russell Sherman at the New England Conservatory and established a relationship that continued beyond the undergraduate years at Harvard, resulting in a master's degree in piano from New England. …