The journey of an award-winning pianist


Cultivating talent takes practice, dedication, a willingness to sacrifice and a determination to keep the goal in sight, even when the going gets tough.

Through his determination and countless hours of practice, Conlan Miller, a piano performance major and pianist for 12 years, has successfully developed his talents and has become a national award-winning pianist.

Conlan Miller plays on the piano he won during the MTNA Young Artists Award Performance Competition.

The award  Miller received, which was given by the MTNA Young Artists Award Performance Competition, enables talented musicians nationwide to compete and to display their talents and skills.

The competition is held in three stages which include state, divisions and nationals. Winners from each state go on to the division round, and the winners from the seven divisions go on to nationals, which was held in Anaheim, Calif.

Miller came away from the competition with the first prize, which was a Steinway & Son piano valued at over $25,000.

Miller was not the only BYU student to walk away with an award, Spencer Parks, a music major at BYU, won first place for the brass category and received $3,000.

“The level of competition at these events is very high, so the fact that two BYU students won this year is a pretty rare and exciting thing for our school,” Miller said. “So this is not an award that someone just offered to us. It’s something we have worked for about seven months to achieve, and really our whole lives.”

Miller began playing the piano at seven years old. Like many who try an instrument for the first time, Miller became discouraged and decided to quit piano after playing for six months.

“I guess the time just wasn’t right, but I decided to start up again a couple years later after listening to a video recording of a local pianist,” Miller said.

Dr. Irene Peery-Fox, who has been teaching at BYU since 1980, works with piano performance majors. Peery-Fox first met Miller when he was ten years old after he auditioned to study with her.

“Conlan is very gifted, quick, respectful and fun to teach,” Peery-Fox said. “He understands everything he’s taught and takes it a step beyond.”

Peery-Fox saw how gifted Miller was and knew that he had a bright future ahead as a pianist.

“From the moment I gave him his first lesson I recognized the special talent he has,” Peery-Fox said. “He was performing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with the Utah Valley Symphony within two years of his first lesson, then both Rachmaninoff 2nd and 3rd piano concertos with the Utah Symphony in Abravanel Hall by the ages of 13 and 15 respectively.”

Though Peery-Fox was clearly able to see his talent as his teacher, Miller’s peers were also quick to notice his ability. John Shumway, a piano performance major, first met Miller in BYU Men’s Chorus where they both were accompanists.

“Conlan’s strength in piano is his technical and motor skills — simply amazing,” Shumway said. “He is also a strong reader and can be amazingly expressive.”

Playing the piano has not only provided Miller with countless opportunities but has given him an ability to express himself during performances.

“The piano allows me to communicate more with music than with words,” Miller said. “I feel that someone could learn more about me, my desires and my personality by watching me perform than by hearing me give a talk.”

As a pianist Miller has had opportunities to travel and in the future will be traveling to Chicago, Florida and possibly Louisiana to perform.

“I perform whenever and wherever I have the opportunity,” Miller said. “These are some of the opportunities that have been offered to me as a result of winning this competition. It’s all very overwhelming, and I feel humbled by all that this means to me and my future.”

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