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Speaker of Note: Umi Garrett

Person of Interest

What qualifies a 14-year-old to give a TED talk? How about being globally hailed as a piano prodigy since her 2009 appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”? Garrett, who lives in Aliso Viejo, already has released two albums, played with multiple symphonies, been named a Young Steinway Artist, and won competitions in Japan, Hungary, and New York. This month she’ll speak at the TEDxOrangeCoast conference at Soka University. In other exciting news, she’s just started high school.

Happy about school?
Yes! I’ve been home-schooled online for the last two years so I could tour, but now I’m going to the Orange County School of the Arts—yay!

Describe your TED talk.
It’s about the power of music—how it affects people. I went to Japan two years after the 2011 tsunami and got to play for people who were still recovering. I hope to help people through music.

Do you have time to be a kid, too?
I have friends, and I like to read and draw. And I have two lizards. But I do practice a lot.

Memorable concerts?
Once, in Italy, I had an outdoor solo performance. There were church bells ringing every 15 minutes and bugs were flying up my dress. Oh, and an ambulance went by! But I kept playing.

What’s touring like?
My mom always travels with me. I can’t go alone and she won’t let my dad take me because we play tag indoors and spray whipped cream in our mouths. He’s the relaxed parent, and she has to keep the house from collapsing.

Watch Her!
Click here to watch a video of Umi Garrett practicing and talking through the piece she's playing.

Hear Her!
The TEDxOrangeCoast event will be Sept. 19 and 20 at Soka Performing Arts Center tedxorangecoast.com



Photograph by Priscilla Iezzi
This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue.

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  1. Pencet posted on 08/27/2014 12:59 AM
    Umi is really a star. her playing is so pure, bright and clear.
  2. terry baer posted on 08/31/2014 11:26 AM
    Ten years from now Umi and Yuja will be beautifully "doing battle"!
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