How do you get to Carnegie Hall? In the case of Thatcher Harrison, win an international competition.
As a toddler, Harrison mimicked guitar-playing performers like the Indigo Girls and Simon & Garfunkel while watching them on DVD. He owned his first guitar at the age of two. By five he was performing with a full-sized Gibson around his neck, the instrument resting on the ground because it was larger than the boy himself.
Now, the 17-year-old guitar phenom, who was born in Tiverton but now lives in Dartmouth where his parents are professors at UMass, is heading to New York City to play in Weill Recital Hall at the famed Carnegie Hall as the first-place winner in the strings category at the 2018 Golden Classical Music Awards International Competition.
Gary Fish, who hosts open mic sessions at Tiverton’s Sandywoods Center for the Arts where Harrison regularly performs, wasn’t surprised that Harrison won. “He was five when he came to his first open mic,” Fish says. “He blew away the crowd with an awesome rendition of Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues.’ He’s a tremendous talent.”
For Harrison, playing music is all about the audience. His philosophy comes from an unexpected source: former Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant. “Plant once said that you create music to make people happy,” Harrison says. “That’s what I believe. I play for the audience, so they can experience something beautiful.”
Harrison plans to perform “V: Presto” from “Koyunbaba” by contemporary Italian composer Carlo Domeniconi for his Carnegie Hall debut. “The traditional classical composers, like Bach, wrote for several different instruments, but Domeniconi composes solely for guitar,” Harrison explains. “I want to bring musical variety to the audience.”
Currently a high school senior, Harrison has his eye on several music schools for college. He’s keeping mum about which ones while he goes through the application process.
For this die-hard Yankee fan, playing in NYC at Carnegie Hall is “a dream come true.”
“The minute I met him, I knew he was a shooting star,” says Fish. “This won’t be his first trip to Carnegie Hall. I see him playing in concert halls all over the world.”
But lucky Rhode Islanders can catch Harrison in January, when he returns to Sandywoods’ open mic in the new year.