Darius Taylor, of Jackson, recently placed first in his age group in the First Annual Great Composers Competition – Best Schubert Performance, a series of international music competitions for young performers. Taylor, a senior music education major at the University of Tennessee at Martin, received first place among men ages 23-25.
Taylor discovered the competition through Dr. Roberto Mancusi, UT Martin associate professor of music and Taylor’s vocal coach. As luck would have it, Taylor had performed music by composer Franz Schubert at his senior voice recital, and he submitted those recordings for consideration. He was surprised to be asked to audition for the final round and even more shocked to see his name on the list of winners.
“I was just on the website to see how everything was going because I didn’t know if I would place or not,” he said. “I saw they had a page up for winners already, so I scrolled down, and I saw my name. I just sat there in shock. I thought, “Wait a minute, this can’t be right!’”
Sure enough, a winning certificate arrived via email a few days later, and Taylor is humbled to receive international validation of his career choice.
“I’ve learned this is definitely something I want to pursue and continue doing. I’ve invested so many years of training to get to this point, and to see some fruits come back from that only bolsters my belief in what I’ve been taught,” he said. “It really makes me want to move forward and really give it my all to continue in this profession.”
Taylor plans to graduate from UT Martin in December 2017 and intends to pursue a master’s degree in opera performance and gain professional experience before returning to share his love of music in a classroom.
“I’ve always had a passion to teach music because that was one part of school where I really thrived, and I felt something within me telling me to keep going with that. It made me feel alive,” he said. “I want to be one of those people who helps someone discover, ‘Hey, I have a knack for (music). I can move other people with this, and this really moves me emotionally and spiritually.’”
Taylor’s primary goal is to teach in a high school music setting, but he sees a need for music teachers at lower grade levels as well to help students develop a love of music and work through common challenges that face the middle school age group.
“I’ve found there should be an importance (placed on) middle school choir directors, so I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at that. That’s a very crucial point for a lot of people when it comes to singing because your voice is changing and you’re trying to adapt to new things,” Taylor explained. “I personally would like to see more male involvement in choir. I’m one of only five male vocal majors (at UT Martin), and I believe it all starts there in middle school because guys’ voices are going through a much more dramatic change there. … I’d really like to be there to step in and let them know that it’s going to be alright; you’re going to settle down and learn to harness this new instrument, and it’s going to be nothing like what you’ve had before.”
Taylor sees music and fine arts education as a crucial component to the development of young children and adults alike, and he hopes to encourage his future students to appreciate all forms of music not only for their sound but also for the effect music can have on the soul and personality.
“I think being involved in music and the finer arts helps develop a person internally, and it’s not something you can put on paper,” he said. “It sands the finer edges of who we are as people and the kinds of things we enjoy.”
Taylor plans to continue performing and competing in the coming years as his career takes flight, and encourages other students of all majors to take the same chances and venture beyond their comfort zones.
“Whether you receive an accolade or not, there’s always something to learn,” he said. “Whether you succeed or you fail, you have to take (that experience) and grow from it. It’s a hard lesson to learn, and it took me four years.”
The Shubert competition is Taylor’s first foray into the world of international vocal competition.
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