Child prodigy Curtis Elton, youngest person in world to get music degree
An 11-year-old boy has become the youngest person in the world to get a degree in music. Child prodigy Curtis Elton started learning the piano at the age of three and could read music by the time he was four.
He was the youngest person in the world to pass a piano exam equivalent to the first year of university when he was nine.
Two years on, he has completed the course and been awarded an LTCL diploma from Trinity College London. The qualification – a Licentiate of Trinity College London – is equivalent to the final year of an undergraduate degree.
Curtis practiced for more than two hours a day to perfect a challenging 37-minute programme, mostly from memory, for examiners. He played Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in E flat, Mozart’s Sonata in F, two Etudes by Chopin and April by John Ireland.
The chief examiner said Curtis performed the Mozart with “much virtuosity” and said his fingers moved “nimbly and easily” in one of the Chopin pieces.
Curtis, who has appeared on Channel 4’s Child Genius programme, also had to write a 1,000-word programme about the pieces and histories of the composers. Mother Hayley – herself a 41-year-old concert pianist – said she trained Curtis for the exam “like a marathon runner” by feeding him plates of pasta to give him energy.
Curtis, who is home-schooled and practises on his own white Yamaha grand piano, said: “I was a bit nervous at the beginning of the exam but when I started playing I wasn’t nervous anymore.
“I practice for about two hours a day but before the exam I probably did more than that to perfect the pieces.” Curtis said he wants to be as successful as pianists Liberace, Lang Lang and Elton John – but also admires Manchester United heroes Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.
He said: “I used to listen to my mother playing when I was younger and I really enjoyed it. The piano is a really musical instrument and it is nice to play. My favourite composer is probably Chopin.”
Curtis lives in Barnet, London, with his mother, father Jonathan, a 45-year-old graphic designer, and 10-year-old sister Sophia. The first song he learned to play in full was Yankee Doodle, followed by the Pink Panther theme and then Beethoven’s Ode To Joy.
He took his Grade 1 exam with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music at the age of four. He rapidly progressed through the grades and got his Grade 8 – the highest – when he was only eight.
When he grows up, Curtis said he would like to be a concert pianist and play at the Royal Albert Hall, or possibly become a doctor – or even Prime Minister. Mrs Elton is a professional concert pianist and at the age of eight she was the youngest pupil accepted to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
She said: “It is an incredible achievement for Curtis. It was a very demanding programme and it was very technical. Some piece were very fast. He loves performing in front of people so that wasn’t a problem.”
Curtis took his LTCL exam last November and received the result in March. He was invited onto ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent in 2011 and in 2014. But despite getting three out of three yes votes from judges during the auditions, he failed to make the final selection on both occasions.
A Trinity College London spokesman said: “Trinity is proud to support young musicians as they progress and set out on a lifetime of musical appreciation and achievement.”