Zachary Slade is 13 years old but his talent is well beyond those years. The parish knows him as a virtuoso on the piano, participating in competitions across the Atlantic. But he’s a teenager, too, enjoying swimming, hiking, video games, watching YouTube videos, and he’s also a black belt in the martial arts. Needless to say, he’s striking the right chords in his young life.
It’s apparent you love music. You’re an accomplished pianist and even play tuba in your school’s concert and jazz bands. From where do you get your love of music?
I’m not really sure. I watched some TV shows when I was little that involved music, but the love of it was just kind of natural for me. I started getting piano lessons at age 4, and it quickly became a big part of my life. My mom also used to play violin, piano, flute and guitar, and she currently plays the harp. Maybe she has something to do with it.
Everyone in the parish is amazed by your talent when you play the piano in church. You oftentimes don’t even use sheet music. How did you get so talented and how can you play so well from memory?
There were three steps that I took to be able to play the piano well (and by memory) Step 1: Practice. Step 2: Practice. Step 3: Practice. I was inclined to music when I was little; however, nine-plus years of practice were what really got me to where I am today. As far as memorization is concerned, everybody who enters competitions and does concerts has to play the music by memory, so I have been practicing this skill for a very long time.
I’m not really sure, I have just been practicing, performing and competing, and there’s always people who have had way more experience and have the time to practice five-plus hours a day. They usually have the upper hand in competitions and they have more talent because of the practicing. That’s mainly how it comes about.
You’ve traveled to Poland several times for competitions and instruction, the latest being participating in the 24th International Master Course for Pianists in Wroclaw in August. What are those competitions like and what do you learn from traveling there?
I competed in the competition in Poland back when I was 8. I don’t remember a lot from that trip, but I know it was an amazing experience. The master course was recent, however. I learned so much from the professors I had the lessons with, and I got a whole new perspective on the professional piano world. Many of the participants go to piano conservatories, and they get to practice about eight hours a day. It was a whole different lifestyle, and now I realize the lifestyle of some of the people I may face in future competitions.
You always seem very calm while playing. Do you ever get nervous?
Absolutely! I can’t help it sometimes, especially when I am performing in a big concert or a competition. A lot of times, months of practice and hard work is on the line in the competitions, and I just can’t help getting a tad bit nervous.
What does music do for you?
The classical music I play opens doors for me to learn about other cultures in other countries, and I learn about what life was like back in the era when that music was composed. A lot of the classical music written a few hundred years ago reflects on the culture of that era. Playing music also helps with my focus, especially when I am playing by memory. One thing I want to add — I don’t like to turn up the radio to Bach and Beethoven (at all). Like most people my age, I listen to all the new releases on the pop channels, and I also like some rap songs as well.
Your favorite subject is school is math. Many students might say that’s their worst subject. Why do love it so much?
I like math because it is simple and straightforward, and the answers you put out are either right or wrong. I’ve always liked working with numbers, and I like the fact that it has a practical application in most parts of life. I want to learn something that I can use many times in my life later on.
You love hiking the High Peaks in the Adirondacks, and have climbed 15 out of the 46 tallest mountains in the area, including Mt. Marcy, whose summit is the tallest elevation in the state. Why do you like it and what do you think about while hiking?
I love hiking the High Peaks because they give me a big challenge whenever I do them, and completing the hikes give me a feeling of achievement I just can’t get anywhere else. Every year, the mountains get harder and longer, but I still love to do them because I have that one goal in mind: completing all 46 High Peaks. Whenever I climb them, I try to think about anything but the mountains. The journeys are very physically and mentally demanding, and I try to talk and think about fun things and random stuff back at home. That is what mainly powers me through the 12- to 13-hour hikes.
You’re a black belt in American Eagle Style, a traditional martial arts style. Why did you get into the martial arts and what do you get out of it?
I’ve been studying the martial arts since I was 6 because my mom got me into it. It involves discipline, exercise and lots of focus, and a lot of what I learn in the style goes hand in hand with my piano studies.
You’ve been a parishioner of Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament since you were young and you’re an altar server. What are your thoughts about the parish?
I can’t imagine a parish better than this one. The people are very nice and welcoming, and the church itself is beautiful. Father Cesta is very funny, and he is one of the nicest people I’ve met. I have been serving for almost five years, and it is an enjoyable and rewarding experience, especially during Holy Week.
What does your faith mean to you?
Faith helps me deal with problems and choices I face in school and life. It helps me make smart decisions, and sometimes, when I am up against a corner in life, I know that God is there for me.
Life has its ups and downs. How do you cope with disappointments?
I don’t really spend a ton of time thinking about them, and after a little while I move on.
If you could tell your friends one thing about your faith, what would it be?
I am a Catholic and I am dedicated to my parish family. I love altar serving every other week and I am starting to get involved with the choir by playing the piano when there is no pianist there.
What do you hope the future holds for Zachary Slade?
I’m not really sure yet. I hope music will be a part of my life later on, but the competitive piano world is very cutthroat, so I’ll decide in a few years whether or not to go down that path eventually. Because I like math and science, I might decide to choose a career in one of those fields, but I will always hang on to the music aspect.
Education: In eighth grade at Perry Junior High School.
Family: I live with my mom and my dog Kendo in Frankfort; my father lives in New Hartford.
Things I like to do: Swimming, hiking, chilling in the snow (weather dependent) video games (mainly mobile games such as “Summoners War”) and watching YouTube videos.
Favorite TV show: “Designated Survivor.”
Favorite movie: “Central Intelligence,” “Star Wars” series.
Favorite book: “The Young Elites” series.
Favorite musical artist or genre: Drake; pop and some rap.
Favorite quote: “Do … or do not. There is no try.” — Yoda