CHARLESTON—Micah McLaurin, who is considered a piano prodigy by many, can thank God and his grandmother.
God gave him his talent, and his grandmother gave him his first piano at age 9.
“I became interested right away and my mom signed me up for lessons,” Micah said.
The rest could be history in the making.
At 15, Micah is by far the youngest pianist featured in The College of Charleston International Piano Series. The teen joins acclaimed performers such as Hartmut Sauer of Germany, Roberto Berrocal of Spain, and the college’s own artist in residence, Enrique Graf.
Graf took over Micah’s piano education about a year ago. The story of how he came to hear Micah play is one of those domino events that highlight how God brings people into each other’s lives.
Realtor Max Hill was at a beginner concert to hear his granddaughter play. Micah was also there to demonstrate advanced technique. Hill was so impressed, he arranged for Micah to play for David Stahl, director of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. Graf, also of the Charleston Academy of Music, heard the performance and wanted to help Micah develop further.
The teen also credits his first teacher, Marsha Gerber, who brought him to that point.
Playing in the international piano series is just the latest in what is already an impressive list of awards, including second prize in the International Institute of Young Musicians Piano Competition in 2008. He has also received the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Scholarship for the past four years.
Micah said he has always loved music, and knew after only a few lessons that the piano was the thing for him.
Don’t ask him to play popular music or show tunes. He can, but he doesn’t enjoy it. He is a classical musician all the way.
“Micah likes the gut-wrenching pieces, the ones that bring out the emotions,” his mother Karen said.
Micah added that there are too many pieces he loves to name his favorite, but the composers he enjoys include Rachmaninoff, Chopin and Mozart. He continues to reel off the names of composers with hard-to-spell names, then smiles.
Basically, Micah said, he likes everything except the Baroque period, which he described as boring. The music that draws him the most is from the 1800s, the Romantic era.
During his concert Feb. 9, he will perform works by Bach, Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev.
No matter how often he plays, though, he still suffers pre-show jitters.
“Before I go on I get nervous, but it usually goes away, unless I make a mistake or my memory slips,” Micah said.
And he is always aware of the audience and what they are doing. Clapping is good. Standing ovations are better. But no matter how many accolades he receives, Micah said he is never happy with his performance and always wishes he had done better. He said he is harder on himself than anyone else is because he hears the small mistakes that no one else notices.
That’s why he practices at least three hours a day, although he tries for four or more.
“I don’t love to practice, I have to practice,” he said.
Despite the practice, the nerves, and the constant quest for perfection, Micah said he hopes to attend a conservatory after high school and have a career as a concert pianist.
Between home schooling, he tries to balance piano with other activities, such as tennis, swimming and Boy Scouts. When he has free time, he also likes to play the Nintendo Wii.
The family of nine — parents David and Karen, and their seven children, Marielle, Daniel, Micah, Eva, Clare, Catherine, and Jesse — attend The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
The College of Charleston International Piano Series featuring Micah McLaurin will be held Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. at the Sottile Theater. Visit www.cofc.edu/music/ips.html.