Keaton Ollech, our October soloist, answers a few questions from SPOtlight

Keaton Standing by a Ferrari in Monaco

Keaton in Monaco with Ferrari

How did you get started on the piano?  Did you love it right away?

There was a small piano situated in our living room when I was a baby.  As soon as I could reach the keys, I would play repetitive notes on it.  My older brother used to play songs like “O Canada” and “Heart and Soul” on the piano.  He taught me how to harmonize “Heart and Soul” and I instantly loved it.  I was intrigued by all the sounds I could make on the piano, especially the percussive effect it had.  When I got older, my mom put me into lessons, which I looked forward to every week.

What do you like most about playing?  What do you like least?

I like the solitude of the piano, especially when I am learning new repertoire.  I like how I can express emotions that might not be conveyable in words.  On the other hand, I love playing with other musicians!  I enjoy the energy of playing collaboratively.  It has an invigorating effect that I find thrilling.  What I like least is not having enough time to practice and explore new repertoire because of schoolwork and other commitments.

Is there something special about the Beethoven that made you choose it?

I heard one of my friends playing it and I instantly connected to its magic and its diverse character.  It is infused with such rich imagination.  Its harmonic gestures personally resonated as simultaneously simple yet complex.  There is power and majesty in this concerto combined with tender delicacy.  I wanted to get inside the piece to try to better understand what Beethoven was creatively communicating.

Do you have a second instrument?

Yes, I also play percussion.  It is great fun to experiment with different beats.  I also sing in my school’s choir.

Are your parents musical?

My mom is innately musical.  She has a deep interest in all forms of music.  My dad is more of a sports enthusiast.  He plays many sports and also coaches.

Keaton at Roman Colosseum

In Rome

Do you have siblings and are they musical too?

I have one older brother who used to play the saxophone, but his real passion is theatre.  He is also the funniest person I know.

Do you go to school? 

Yes, I attend Glenlyon Norfolk School.  I am in Grade 10.  My favourite subjects are mathematics, French, science, and I have a passion for geography.

Keaton Pisa

In Pisa

What do you do to relax?

I like to read atlases.  Seriously, I do!  I read travel guides too.  I also like to watch comedies, listen to music, spend time with friends, swim at the lake, shoot hoops, and walk in nature.

Do you play sports?  Any other interests?

I play basketball and I swim.  I used to be on a competitive swim team but I don’t have enough time to dedicate to swimming right now.  I love to travel.  My grandma took me on a trip to Europe this summer, which was just an amazing experience!   I find it fascinating to learn about customs and cultures of the world.  At school, I am a member of the Model United Nations Club.  We have an upcoming conference that I am really looking forward to.  Another big interest of mine is cars.  Even though I am too young for my driver’s license, I’ve received several speeding tickets.  (Just joking.)  I have actually never driven as I am just 14 but I appreciate the various designs and structures of cars.

Anything else people will be interested to know about you?

Besides my love of music and math, I love roller coasters–the scarier the better!  I also like animals.  I find them fascinating and refreshing in their spontaneous behaviour and unconditional love.  Finally, I must mention that even though I am a bit reserved, I really enjoy a good laugh.

Keaton in Kotor Montenegro

Keaton in Montenegro


The Greatest Composer?

When I was playing in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra nearly 60 years ago, Sir Thomas Beecham was still conducting, and many of the players had known him for years.  Sir Thomas was surrounded by stories. He had a great wit, much off-colour (there were only male members in the orchestra) and perhaps some apocryphal. One story, to do with the young lad, was that when his tutor stated that “Beethoven is the Greatest”, young Thomas said he thought Mozart was the greatest.  The players knew that what Sir Thomas wanted was what Sir Thomas would get.

Flash forward 30 years, and I was teaching the English music curriculum to Cayman Islands students.  I was required to state “Beethoven is the greatest composer”.  The students may have wondered why I had a smile on my face when I complied with the curriculum.  The concept of a “greatest” composer is one I leave with you, but could you advise me what the greatest fruit is? — Larry Hobson