It began with a simple children’s tune.
Twenty years ago, Four Oaks native Patrick Parker sat at an old, worn piano in his parents’ living room playing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Today, the 25-year-old is on his way to becoming a nationally recognized organist.
Parker is one of seven semifinalists in the 2014 National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance, or NYACOP. Sponsored by the American Guild of Organists, the contest allows emerging artists to develop performance skills while showcasing their talents. The winner will receive two years of concert management and a commercial recording on a classical-music label.
“If you’re a young organist and want the very best opportunities for you career, this is the contest to enter,” said Parker, a doctoral student in musical arts at the University of Houston.
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Music has always fascinated Parker. He began weekly piano lessons as a second-grader; by middle school, he was also playing the trumpet and violin. As a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Parker was captivated by the organ and its impressive sounds.
“The music was so loud and powerful,” he said. “I had never played the organ before and knew nothing about it. It was such a cool musical instrument, and I was hooked instantly.”
Parker spent the next two years studying the instrument and mastering its techniques. During this time, he found himself drawn to the works of Johann Sebastian Bach.
“I’m very interested in playing the best music that the composers have left us,” Parker said. “When I play something from them, I feel very connected to that person. I get to relive their emotions and experiences. It’s really special to me.”
For the organ competition, Parker recorded six compositions over four months at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston. The semifinal round takes place May 22 in Columbus, Ga., and three finalists will compete June 23 at Harvard Memorial Church in Cambridge, Mass.
“I’ve learned that most people don’t get to do what they love,” Parker said. “I’ve realized how lucky I am that I get to spend all of my time doing something that I’ve loved since I was a really young child.”
Parker said his eventual goal is to become an organist director at a major American cathedral. He expects to finish his studies in spring 2015 and currently performs at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Houston.
“Music has played a huge part of my life,” Parker said. “The best way I can communicate with people is when I perform. That’s when I can just be myself and be completely vulnerable. Music has been a huge emotional outlet my entire life.”