At age nine, surprising everyone with his piano skills by becoming the youngest person to pass a university level piano exam. While most kids his age talk about cartoons, comics and sports, he talks about Bach, Mozart and Schubert.
Meet Curtis Elton, the UK’s ‘Mini Mozart,’ who seems to have amazed one and all with his talent, knowledge and confidence. Elton, showed his skills recently when he performed in front of a packed house at London’s Ripley’s Believe it or Not for a full two hours. “I had lots of fun and loved performing and meeting everyone,” Curtis said after his performance. Curtis, who released his first album Daydreams in November this year, marked his West End debut by performing at Ripley’s and used the platform to wow the crowds by playing tracks from his new CD. He seemed to impress the audience with his fresh interpretations of classics by Mozart, Bach and Schubert.
The London-based piano prodigy started playing the piano when he was only three-and-a-half, and all this started when his mom, Hayley Elton, who is his mentor, observed Curtis had a gift. “He used to fall asleep to my Sleep Baby Sleep CD, which was of me playing piano. He loved the music and wanted to start playing for himself,” says Hayley. It was while teaching him his first song, Old MacDonald Had A Farm, Hayley says, she realised how immensely talented Curtis was. “He learnt that song in just one lesson, and was soon able to learn very quickly from then on. His concentration level was very good, and by the time he was four, he [was able to] read music by sight,” she said.
Two years ago, at the age of eight, Curtis excelled records by passing his Grade 8 piano exam, and this year he became the first person in the world to be awarded the ATCL (Associate of Trinity College London) Diploma, the equivalent to the first year of a degree. In his achievements he has left his mom Hayley behind, who herself was a child prodigy at her time. Hayley, a concert pianist, was the youngest person to gain entrance to the Guildhall School of Music when she was just eight years old.
Last year Curtis was nominated for a Nickelodeon Fruit Shoot skills award for the best rising star. He was invited to a Yamaha event to promote both a Disney film and GAP clothing, and later invited to take part in the London Master classes at the Royal College of Music with well-known conductor Benjamin Zander.
Curtis has his little feet firmly planted on the ground. “It’s very easy to keep Curtis grounded because that’s just his character. He’s a normal child and behaves like one,” Hayley says. Hayley knows the perks of a good education and educates the same to Curtis. She has imposed limits on how long Curtis may spend on the piano each day. “It [may] be quite challenging, trying to fit everything in with school and exams as you can imagine. However, school must come first as this is very important. On holidays and weekends, Curtis practices for two hours a day. During the week he practices for half-an-hour usually, or an hour at maximum,” says the mum.
“In regards to my studies, I want to take the next qualification, the LTCL, which is a full degree in piano. Apart from that I want to compose more albums in the future and do more collaborations with my mother. I would very much love to get to the number one spot, so that everybody can hear my music,” adding, “My dream is to be able to play at the Proms, Royal Albert Hall. I would also really love to be able to compose music for a film.”
Would it be correct to say he has chosen his career path toward becoming a professional pianist? “Well, I would love to be a concert pianist obviously,” Curtis says. “However I’d also like to be the Prime Minister as I am very much interested in politics,” he added thoughtfully. Well, it might be interesting to have a piano-playing Prime Minister.
How might Curtis motivate other youngsters?