FALMOUTH — A 12-year-old Falmouth boy recently won a New England Conservatory concerto competition.
Christopher Staknys received first place in the competition for his performance of the first movement of Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16. The honor includes the opportunity to play the entire concerto with The Youth Repertory Orchestra at Jordan Hall in Boston in May.
Though he was pleased by the win, Chris is no stranger to the attention his musicality creates. He said he’s been making music in one form or another ever since he can remember.
According to his mother, Audrey Staknys, she constantly played music for Chris while he was still in the womb. By the time he was 2, he would occupy himself during car trips by playing a small keyboard. When he was 4, he began taking violin lessons.
And by 6, once he had started piano lessons, he discovered his passion for composing. Giving up his tiny keyboard for a pencil and staff paper, Chris began to use his travel time to write music, managing to create pieces even while his mother had other music playing on the car radio.
But it was at age 8, when he discovered Beethoven, he said, that he became truly “serious” about his music.
“I went to summer camp and one of my friends was playing ‘Fur Elise,'” he said.
He was taken by Beethoven’s piece and learned it in its entirety when he returned home.
While Beethoven has remained one of his favorite composers (he keeps a bust of the composer’s likeness prominently displayed on the piano), Chris’ taste in music includes many other styles and composers as well.
“I am really more of a creative person,” he said. “Instead of trying to do what other people do, I like to do my own things.”
His “own things” include the “Dirty Dish Rag,” a ragtime piece he was inspired to write after listening to Scott Joplin. He has written several pieces for children, including a full choral work in three voices, “Full Fathom Five,” set to lyrics by Shakespeare, which was performed by the chorus at Plummer-Motz School when he was in fifth grade.
These days, instead of the pencil and staff paper, he prefers to use Sibelius, a music scoring computer program, to craft his music. Currently, he is putting the finishing touches on “Beowulf,” his multi-instrumental composition inspired by movie scores, before its performance by a full orchestra in Boston later this year.
Chris pursues his musical studies at New England Conservatory, studying piano with Roberto Poli and composition with Rodney Lister. Because of the number of trips he and his mother must take to Boston – sometimes four or more a week – and the two hours of daily piano practice, he no longer attends Falmouth schools, but is home-schooled by his mother.
In addition to his latest win, Chris placed second in 2007 in an international competition, Music Without Limits, in Lithuania. He also performs in the southern Maine and Boston areas, and several of his performances can be seen on YouTube.com. When he’s not playing, writing or listening to music, he can most often be found reading or enjoying Monty Python.
At this point, Chris said he expects to make composing his career.
“If not that, something else where I get to create my own material like writing or programming,” he said.
Christopher Staknys, 12, plays Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16 at his home in Falmouth. Staknys recently won first place for his performance of the first movement at a New England Conservatory concerto competition in Boston.