The youngest and first local winner of the Jefferson City 2018 Piano Concerto Competition, Tanner Henley, will perform his winning concerto with the Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra on April 24.
Tanner is a 17-year-old Jefferson City High School senior who won the competition Feb. 10.
"I got two judges and myself and it was unanimous that he was the winner. He's extremely musical for someone his age," said Gary Sanders, chair of the JCSO Piano Competition.
The annual competition is open to any Missouri college, university or private piano teacher to admit their student, and it's open to any Missouri resident even if they are studying out of state, he added.
"I definitely wasn't expecting it," Henley said. "Not only were some of the other competitors playing at the collegiate level and studying at the collegiate level, but I watched some of the other performances and I was really astonished by all the other people playing."
Henley will perform the same piece he performed at the competition, "Concerto for Piano and Orchestra" by Edward Green. This time he will join JCSO during their third symphony concert of the 2017-18 season, where they will perform three other pieces, one of which will be accompanied by the Missouri Contemporary Ballet.
"This one is different because he lives here and we get the opportunity to have a soloist to come to almost all the rehearsals," JCSO Conductor Patrick Clark said. "It's his first piano concerto, so he's getting used to playing into the orchestra instead of on top of the orchestra, but that's a fabulous learning experience for him and frankly it's a learning experience for me and the orchestra. Working with someone this young, his technique is out of this world."
Henley began studying piano at age 12 with his grandmother, where he found his passion for classical music. A year later, he began formal piano studies under the instruction of Karen Larvick, who he has studied with for the past four years.
"Considering the normal years of piano before a person graduates from high school, he's really made progress and he's done this in a few short years — and that's quite amazing," Larvick said.
Henley has entered several competitions throughout his high school years, often receiving first place. His most recent competition was the National Federation of Music Clubs Festival, where he won first place in March, and will join them for a music conference next month in Kansas City. Outside of practice, Henley plays for church services, funeral services, weddings and special events.
He is a cashier at Walmart, captain of his high school debate team and a member of the high school's chorale. After graduating this year, he will attend the University of Central Missouri on a piano scholarship and plans to pursue a career in piano performance.
The concerto with the Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra will begin at 7 p.m. at Lincoln University's Mitchell Auditorium. Tickets are available at eventbrite.com/e/jefferson-city-symphony-orchestra-piano-contest-winner-tickets or can be purchased at the door the night of the performance.
"Who knows, someday he may be famous. Here's your opportunity to see him at the very, very beginning," Clark said.