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Passion for classical music takes teen prodigy from NC to NYC

Posted February 6, 2013
Updated February 7, 2013

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— For most musicians, filling a chapel with the sounds of Bach takes focus, coordination and years of practice.

But for 14-year-old musician Michael Bennett, it hasn't taken long at all.

This child prodigy from Chapel Hill started playing the violin at the age of 3 and was jamming on the guitar by the time he was 4.

At the age of 10, Bennett was invited to play the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ – the world’s largest instrument - in Philadelphia.

Now, this master organ player is heading to New York with an invitation to attend a pre-collegiate program at the world-renowned Juilliard school for the arts.

“It's a very intensive program,” he said. “You have great professors, great classes and it’s very rigorous. I’m very excited.”

Wylie Quinn, Bennett’s music coach, said the program is not for the faint-hearted.

Michael Bennett Chapel Hill teen, gifted in music, NY-bound

“This is not a tea party that he’s going to in New York,” Quinn said. “The Juilliard school is one of the most demanding places to study anything on the face of the earth – and they’re brutal.”

Despite his precocious talent, Quinn said, Bennett is a pretty normal teenager.

“He'll say some fancy things, then all of a sudden he's talking about how cool something is,” Quinn said.

Just ask him about his favorite music.

“I’m a Bach guy. I’m a baroque guy, too,” he said. “Cringing in a good way would be Olivier Latry at Notre Dame. It’s, like, oh that's so awesome,” he said.

What music makes him cringe in a not-so-good way?

“Of course, Justin Bieber,” he said.

Quinn said Bennett can “see and hear” the music when he looks at it.

“I think he can pretty much do anything he wants to do,” he said.

Bennett has a passion for classical music and performance. He said he longs to tour, compose and teach when he gets older.

“I just have music in my heart,” he said. “It’s like breathing to me. I’d be a lost soul (without it).”

6 Comments

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  • moppie Feb 7, 10:05 a.m.

    Congrats to Michael Bennett! Wylie Quinn was my religion and philosophy professor at Saint Mary's and also our Chorale director. He is an amazing talent himself and pours his heart and soul into coaching and teaching.

  • NCPK Feb 7, 8:54 a.m.

    Michael's a great guy! He needs assistance paying for Juilliard. Any donation would be greatly appreciated!
    http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/311529

  • Hammerhead Feb 7, 8:49 a.m.

    Nice work, Michael.

  • Scare Crow Feb 7, 8:42 a.m.

    lucky guy, I can't carry a tune in a bucket!!

  • westernwake1 Feb 6, 7:00 p.m.

    Congrats to Michael Bennett on his achievement of being invited to this program at the Juilliard. Quite a recognition.

  • carrboroyouth Feb 6, 5:16 p.m.

    Good luck! Proud to see a Chapel Hillian do well :]