Julian: At an age where most young people are thinking about playtime, Tony Madruga had a different kind of play in mind.
Tony Madruga: I started messing around with this keyboard that I asked my parents to get me for my third birthday. And then when I was five, they upgraded me to an even better keyboard.
Julian: It was that upgrade, along with songs played by Tony’s dad, that served as a launching pad for Tony’s lasting love of piano music.
Tony: What attracted me to jazz was the original spirit of the music. It’s a cool world of people in music. And it’s infinite.
Julian: Tony worked hard to perfect his craft, and it wasn’t long before his talent began to take him to some pretty cool places. He has played in venues like Carnegie Hall and New York City’s Lincoln Center. He was even invited to play with one of his idols, Grammy-award winning musician Esperanza Spalding, on music’s biggest night.
Talk to me about your experience at the Grammy’s.
Tony: That year that we did it, we got invited to play with Esperanza on the Grammy stage, which was, you know, another surreal experience.
Julian: Something I had to experience was learning a thing or two from this piano prodigy. Tony says practice makes perfect.
I feel like I could play Lincoln Center. What do you think?
Tony: Yeah! You know, with practice. Eventually, yes.
Julian: Another surreal moment for Tony came when he received a special invite to perform as a part of a group of musicians at the White House.
In 2010, you were invited by the first lady, Michelle Obama, to play at the White House. What was that experience like for you?
Tony: It was very surreal. I mean, just from getting there and having all of that security.
Julian: What was the first lady like?
Tony: She was very gracious. She’s tall, which I didn’t know she was until I met her. But, yeah. I mean, everyone was super nice.
Julian: When it comes to music, does your age give you any advantages or disadvantages?
Tony: I’ve had the great fortune to be surrounded with older musicians. You know, masters of the art form. When you’re on stage with someone like that, or if you’re just spending time with them, I feel like you’re at a great advantage.
Julian: Even though Tony is sitting on a stack of accomplishments at a young age, he remains focused and says if you are not growing, you are not living.
At 18 years old, you are already established as a musician, and you are going to school now. Why are you here? Why are you going to school?
Tony: I always feel like there’s things to improve upon, The most gratification that I’ll get is when I learn something new about it. As long as you’re living, there’s room to grow and improve.
Julian: Tony’s advice for aspiring musicians? Find your passion and pursue it.
Tony: It’s really more about finding something that you have a passion for, whether you’re good at it in the moment or not.
Julian: Julian Dujarric, Channel One News.