WANT TO GO?
Melanie Taylor in Kanawha Forum luncheon piano concert
WHEN: 12:05 to 12:30 p.m., Wednesday
WHERE: Kanawha Presbyterian Church, 1009 Virginia St. E
TICKETS: Concert is free. Lunch after concert by advance reservation for $10.
INFO: Call 304-342-6558
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ah, the life of the young piano prodigy. Melanie Taylor knew it well.
Enthusiastically into classical piano lessons by age 7, she gave her first solo recital at age 10 at the West Side Women's Club, when it used to feature a recital hall.
"It was just cute having a little solo recital as a 10-year-old. That's normally not what happens," said Taylor, as she sat at her beloved black Steinway grand in her Charleston home.
It got even better.
The Charleston Symphony, precursor to today's orchestra, held a statewide talent contest each year in two divisions: amateur and open. Taylor, now 60, cast her memories back 45 years ago to her double-header win in both categories over the course of a couple years, the youngest player ever to win both.
The wins resulted in her dark-haired, dark-eyed face being splayed across the pages of her hometown newspaper and two symphony appearances, first performing Saint-Saens' Piano Concerto No. 2 and then Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3.
"I won the amateur one when I was 14 and played with the symphony when I was 15. I even beat my teacher from WVU the next year when I was 16. I played again with the symphony when I was 17."
She's not bragging, just filling in details on the arc of a musical, educational and teaching life that took her in and out of the state for years. She's back now, teaching piano again in a town where once she taught a young Jennifer Garner and Ann Magnuson.
And she is starting to perform here again. She is featured in a free noontime concert Wednesday at Kanawha Presbyterian Church, 1009 Virginia St. E., as part of the Kanawha Forum, which includes an optional post-performance luncheon for $10.
Taylor, who has a sardonic, self-deprecating view on life and musical fame -- or her lack of it -- says her own life was probably ruined by following, along with the rest of the world, as Van Cliburn won the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in 1958, launching him on a storied career as a concert and solo pianist.
"I was convinced that that's what I wanted to be. By the time I was 18, I was going to play at Carnegie Hall!"
She paused. "Hence, I have felt like a [bleeping] failure since 18."
"It wrecked me. Wrecked me! Oh, well," she said, grinning broadly.
She has, however, worked out a plan that utilizes her offspring -- Kira, 37, and Holly, 35 -- to finally get her to Carnegie Hall. It involves cremation after her passage into the great beyond. That's the first step.
"My kids are taking me to Carnegie Hall and will subtly swish me into the carpet under the seats. That's my dream. They're going to do it. I made them promise. I will have made it to Carnegie Hall!"
For all of the young people out there who chafe under parents' orders to take piano, know this -- Melanie Taylor was not that kind of lesson-hating kid.
"I loved them! Piano was fun and easy," she said.
It helped that she had what she describes as "a very musical daddy." Her father, Denver Foster, was also a pre-eminent piano tuner in the area, who trained other piano tuners, including Dean Pike, whose business was taken over by his son, Philip.The only problem was that her father never got around to teaching her the exacting art and science of how to tune a piano, she said. "No, dammit. He forgot to teach me that and he went and died."