Most people view aspiring professional musicians as poor and starving artists, but senior Taylor Flowers is confident that a career as a professional musician is becoming increasingly viable for him.
Flowers is one of the music department’s most valuable assets. Although he considers himself first and foremost a pianist, Flowers is also a talented violinist and singer.
When Flowers came to Hillsdale as a freshman, he didn’t know if he wanted to go into music. He began as a financial management major, and knew early on that he wanted to diversify his professional opportunities. However, the more involved Flowers became with the music department, the more convinced he became that he wanted to dedicate his life to music.
“Taylor has grown in so many ways since he arrived as a freshman,” Director of Keyboard Studies Brad Blackham said. “It was obvious when he auditioned here that he had the talent to succeed, but it also became evident once he got here that he was willing to put in the practice time to improve.”
From an early age, Flowers was pushed to excel in his pursuit of music. His mom enrolled him and his other siblings in a children’s music academy, where he learned technical skills and other basics. From there, he moved on to private lessons. There were times in his childhood that Flowers wanted to quit, but his parents continued to push him.
“My mom knew I wasn’t at a discerning age to make that call,” Flowers said. “Now, obviously, I am very happy that she didn’t let me give it up.”
Flowers continued to improve as he began to hone his musical craft.
“I started playing things that I liked and moved on from there,” he said. “It has been a continuous process of making it my own.”
Flowers said he plans on pursuing music at the graduate level, his current top two choices for graduate schools being the Cleveland Institute of Music and University of Colorado Boulder. He then hopes to receive a doctorate in arts and teach in a studio at a university.
“I have a dual passion for teaching and collaboration,” Flowers said.
Flowers wants to specialize in collaborative music for multiple reasons. According to him, collaborating fosters a greater appreciation of the details in ensembles and in individual preparation.
“Collaborative music is like having a partner in athletic training,” Flowers said. “It pushes you to achieve your best output. There’s also a healthy competition in it that I enjoy.”
Blackham, who has been Flowers’ piano teacher throughout his college career, also specialized in collaborative music.
“It’s always exciting for me as a teacher to see the same type of passion for music in my students that I have,” he said. “It has been especially exciting recently to see Taylor’s musical studies evolve from solo playing to include collaborating with other musicians. This past summer, Taylor was selected to participate in a very prestigious music festival, the Kent Blossom Summer Festival, where he collaborated with some of the best students across the country and was coached and taught by world-class professional musicians.”
Director of String Studies Melissa Knecht said she believes Flowers has a good chance of making it in the highly competitive musical world.
“Taylor is very unusual because he’s gifted but also very enterprising,” she said. “He has the heart and passion that continually pushes him to succeed.”
Flowers’ aggressive spirit has served him well in accomplishing his goals.
“Going into that festival, Taylor was already thinking about continuing his pianistic studies in collaborative piano at the graduate level,” Blackham said. “When he came back, you could see the fire in his eyes that he had made the right choice and was ready to really go for it.”
According to Flowers, his faith has also played a large role in his musical career thus far. He said his desire to bring glory to God through his music drives him.
“My desire is to inspire and touch others wherever they are in their walks of life,” he said. “I want my music to be beautiful and thought-provoking in a way that speaks of eternity.”
Beyond the music department, Flowers is involved with SOMA, the InterVarsity Arts Ministry, and Crossroads Farm. Flowers is also working on an honors thesis on the religious symbolism in the music of Olivier Messiaen, one of his favorite composers.
Flowers won the Concerto Competition at Hillsdale twice, and has played as a soloist with the orchestra on two separate occasions.
“It was like playing with two audiences — with the orchestra being one of them,” Flowers said. “As the soloist, I was in a symbiotic relationship with the orchestra, which is what collaborative music is all about.”
Music has required sacrifice. Flowers has already sacrificed many things, including the Honors Program Turkey trip, in order to become a better musician. Nevertheless, he said it is completely worth it.
“If you don’t sacrifice for your vocation you will always be dissatisfied,” he said.
Although Flowers is aware of the “poor and starving artist” stereotype, he is not allowing that to hinder his pursuit of a musical career. He strongly believes vocation isn’t justified by compensation.
“My message to Hillsdale students is don’t be afraid to follow your passions,” Flowers said. “What you pursue should be about finding fulfillment from what you do.”