“I really appreciate the fact that (the Columbia/Juilliard) joint program encourages people to keep their minds very broad and open,” Tao said. “It would be easy to push yourself into a corner but music is intrinsically related to so many different aspects of life. Some of the most inspired moments don't always come in the practice room.”
If you're thinking Tao is stretched pretty thin, he's also an accomplished composer. He's won the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award for eight consecutive years and has been commissioned by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra to write an orchestral work in memory of the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination.
“Piano and composition coexist very peacefully and complement each other,” Tao remarked. “I can't imagine doing one with out having the understanding of the other. As a performer, I have a completely different perspective of how interpretation works because I understand it through the context of composing.
“As a violinist and a pianist, I've learned a lot about the orchestra and the dynamics between soloist and orchestra. I know I have a better understanding of what the orchestra wants and where the partnership sometimes comes up short or is not completely satisfying. I have a respect for orchestral musicians.”
While every child prodigy must deal with the challenges of making the transition to adult concert artist, few 18-year old musicians have enjoyed the good fortune of being in such high demand by orchestras throughout the world.
“Every day, I get to do something that I love very much,” Tao said. “I don't see a problem with burnout because music is truly enjoyable. It's one of the most exciting ways to express yourself. It gives me life.”