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Passion for classical music takes teen prodigy from NC to NYC

At 14, Michael Bennett has accomplished what some musicians dream of their entire lives. This child prodigy from Chapel Hill, who picked up the violin at the age of 3, is heading to the prestigious Julliard school for the arts in New York.

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — 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.

“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).”


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