Even though seventh-grader Parker Wilkson is only 13, he has already been playing piano for 10 years.
He is considered a child prodigy by some people, including his chorus director at Charles S. Rushe Middle School. Jodi Mark said Parker has a rare talent for his age.
“He is amazing,” Mark said. “As a seventh-grader, I can hand him any piece of music and he will have learned it by the next day. I would classify him as a prodigy since he is so quick to learn everything. Not only is he an amazing musician, his demeanor is that of such a nice young gentleman. He is a pleasure to work with.”
Mark said having Parker accompany the students in chorus when they perform has been wonderful. Even at his age, he makes it seem easy.
“He knows all the parts of the music so well that if they mess up he can pull it back together when everything is about to fall apart,” Mark said. “It is not about you when you accompany someone. He has such an incredible ear and he just gets it.”
Wilkson played piano for the Sunlake High School production of “Grease” earlier this year.
“It really helped me out musically,” Parker said. “The guys I was playing with were very experienced.”
His father James Wilkson said seeing his son play at the performance with high school students was amazing.
“He didn’t practice much in front of us, so half of what we heard at the play was for the first time,” James said. “When we walked in and heard the band it was amazing. They sounded like a professional band. It is kind of like having August Rush at home. He plays a lot. There is not a day that goes by that there isn’t music coming out of this house. It is always the highlight of my day hearing him play and coming home to my lovely wife.”
Natalie Wilkson said she was also very impressed by her son’s performance.
“I am extremely proud of what he has accomplished,” Natalie said.
Parker started playing piano at such a young age because he had a lot of relatives who played and he was really interested in it, he said.
“My sister took lessons and I wanted to play, too,” Parker said.
So, what kind of music does Parker like to play?
“When I read sheet music, I play it straight the first time and then I add my own thing. I try to make it sound more like the music I like. With classically trained piano, it is all about the technical and straight forward. I like to improvise.”
His music teacher decided if he knew the alphabet then he could learn to play. James Wilkson said his son was always a smart, capable kid.
“He started reading and writing very easily,” James Wilkson said. “There is so much more than I can say about him. He can really play piano.”
Currently, Parker plays for the choir at the Rushe, but he is planning on joining the jazz band next year as well. He said his favorite music to play is rock and pop.
“I like playing a lot of the stuff you hear on the radio,” Parker said. “I enjoy classical, but I like playing the music I like to listen to. After hearing a song on the radio, I like to sit down and figure out the notes one by one.”
Parker can learn to play a song by ear or by reading the sheet music.
“Music is what I love, it is my escape,” Parker said. “I want to study musical composition.
As for inspirations, Parker has several.
"I enjoy tons of musicians like my dad, Coldplay and One Republic," Parker said. "My dad is my mentor. I really look up to him and Chris Martin and Ryan Tedder. They are doing what they love and having fun with it.”
In addition to being a stellar musician, Parker is also a straight A student in the gifted and talented team at school.
“I have all great teachers,” Parker said. “It is a great school and I like the curriculum; it is designed well.”
Parker said he would like to become a musician when he is older, but if that does not work out he plans to go into medical science. He said he would like to attend Dartmouth, Harvard or maybe Princeton.
He not only plays piano, Parker has also been learning how to play guitar.
“I always enjoyed hearing the guitar and watching people play,” Parker said. “I wanted to expand my talents.”
Parker also has a knack for sports. He has also had some of his poetry published in a book that was published through the Teton Arts Council when he was in fourth-grade.
“I love sports,” Parker said. “I like to ski, play golf, football, basketball and soccer. I also like table tennis and tennis.”
Parker acknowledges he would not be where he is today without all the help he has received so he wanted to thank a few people.
“Thanks to my parents for keeping me going through tough times,” Parker said. “I also want to say thanks to my grandparents for helping with the lessons and thanks to the choir class. I also want to thank the cast of 'Grease' and my sister Alyssa. All of my family who have been so wonderful.”
He also said he loves accompanying the students in the choir at school.
“They are a lot of fun, talented kids in the choir,” Parker said. “We have concerts and sometimes we play for them. There are tons of talented people in the choir.”
Students in the choir from Rushe will perform with Parker April 2 at the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce Bike Fest event. The students will perform at the Connerton Amphitheater at 11 a.m.
On May 17, the entire choir and the Rushe Middle School jazz band and the Sunlake High School jazz band will perform in the Spring Concert at 6 p.m. at Rushe Middle School.