Monday, December 24, 2012
Booker T. Washington student backs Keith Urban at American Country Music Awards
Elliott Skinner was part of the Grammy Camp Jazz Choir.
LAS VEGAS For musician and high school student Elliott Skinner, music is not about fame. It's about sincere self-expression.
"Singing is not about impressing people," he said. "It's about sharing a part of yourself, and if they like it, that's a big reward. My goal is not to please other people with my music."
Despite this uncompromising stance, Elliott's abilities recently found an audience -- an audience of 5.2 million, to be exact -- when he performed a storming rendition of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" alongside country music superstar Keith Urban at the American Country Awards, broadcast live on the Fox network December 10.
Elliott, a lifelong Plano resident and senior at the Booker T. Washington High School of Performing Arts in Dallas, was one of seven young musicians representing the Grammy Camp music program who backed Urban for the performance.
While Elliott has performed in school productions and at various churches and music showcases around the Dallas area, the appearance was the biggest yet for the young musician, who has studied classical voice and piano at Booker T. for three years.
Elliott's mother, Vanessa, said her son's musical inclinations have been with him almost since the beginning, adding he has excelled in music classes and school performances since the first grade.
"Probably since he could talk, he's been singing at the same time," she said. "He's always been very musically inclined, as long as I can remember."
The opportunity to perform with Urban stemmed from a contest Elliott entered to be a part of the Grammy Camp Jazz Choir. Upon being notified of his acceptance, the bomb also dropped that he might be working with Urban for the award show, an idea that was solidified two weeks later.
"It was a really, really raw and organic thing to do," Elliott said of the initial rehearsals with Urban. "It wasn't, 'You're going to sing here, you're going to play here.' We just kind of made it up as we went on, so it was really cool getting to work with the other musicians and Keith."
Performing in front of such a huge audience was not a problem, Elliott said, as long as he took care not to pay too much attention to the audience or TV cameras.
"Letting go and not even focusing on that was probably one of the best things I could have done," he said. "If I went into it being nervous ... I don't think I would have done my best and wouldn't have had as much fun as I did."
Back at home, Elliott is staying busy, directing a production for his school's talent show and preparing for the release of an album written and recorded with another local musician and songwriter this year. He plans to attend Berklee College of Music next year.
"I hope to just write music and make a good living off of it," he said. "I can't do anything else other than music. Music has been calling me ever since I was a little kid, and to not pursue a career as an artist would be to not pursue myself."
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