Talent discovered, musician catapults to fame against the odds
On the heels of his Las Vegas debut, pianist Sky Mundell will lend his newfound celebrity to a benefit concert this weekend.
Mundell, 20, is an unlikely local celebrity -- but it’s a status he’s loving.
“It’s great to get all the attention,” he said during a break from recording.
“I like how people get to know me.”
Totally blind, the 2011 Vancouver Island’s Got Talent winner also has hearing loss, cerebral palsy and autism.
Music, in the beginning, seemed a challenge, too. His parents’ first attempts at music lessons didn’t fly.
“Teachers found it difficult to explain to him how he should place his fingers on the keys,” says his parents’ account on Mundell’s new website. “They couldn’t show him and he resisted when they would try to place his fingers for him.”
Left to his own devices, Mundell figured out his own way in late 2007. The teenager played by ear, imitating the music he heard with the help of headphones. Matched with a new teacher in 2010, a jazz pianist, Mundell learned to jam and improvise.
An unexpected win at Vancouver Island’s Got Talent in January launched a series of performing opportunities.
The next month, he performed with Michael Bolton at River Rock Casino in Richmond. Last week, as part of his winner’s package from the competition, he opened a show at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas in V: The Ultimate Variety Show.
He also won recording time and help launching a CD, professional photography, was signed by a booking agent in Canada and the U.S. and hired a public relations agent.
At this time last year, the Mundell family never would have imagined all these successes.
“We were more worried about what on earth Sky was going to do once school finished,” says his dad, Roger Mundell.
Sky takes his celebrity for granted to some extent, said Roger. “He doesn’t understand how unique this is … That’s his whole approach to anything, that if I make my mind up to do it, it will happen, and it always seems that it does.”
His parents have grappled with whether to encourage him in his ambitions or to lower his expectations to avoid disappointment.
Participating in the talent show started as an exercise to bring him down to earth, Roger says. “It kind of backfired,” he says laughing. “It’s opened up possibilities we’ve never even dreamed of.”
Mundell’s next goal, inspired by pianist David Osborne – they met in Vegas – is to play for the U.S. president.
Roger said his son is very determined and as someone with a degree of autism, he can fixate on things.
“He’s channeled that into music, so it’s like an advantage rather than a disadvantage.”
On Friday (May 6), Mundell and other musicians will perform in aid of the Canadian Federation of the Blind. The organization has helped Mundell with cane walking, independent living skills and adaptive technology to help him use the computer.
“The concert will help us raise funds for the organization and will provide the public with a positive perspective on blindness and the abilities of blind people,” says Elizabeth Lalonde, president of the Victoria-based federation.
The concert is named for Mundell’s debut CD: Sky’s the Limit.