NICK DANLAG – STAFF WRITER
Sterling Elliott was born into music. While he was in the womb, his mother had a cello waiting for him. She wanted to have a quartet, so his two older siblings held a violin by the time they were 3, and she decided that Elliott, the youngest, would have the cello.
But Elliott didn’t want to play the cello. He wanted to play the violin like his siblings. Within a week of picking the violin, Elliott managed to accidentally break the neck off of the instrument. So he reconsidered the cello.
“What initially got me going was what my mom told me, that cellos made more money,” Elliott said. “So that really got little me rolling with it.”
From there, his passion and career sprouted. At 7, Elliott became the first-place Junior Division winner of the Peninsula Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition and has since soloed with the New York Philharmonic, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra and many others.
Now, a little over a month after his 22nd birthday and graduating from The Juilliard School, Elliott has been named a “Rising Star” of ChamberFest Cleveland, a classical music festival that for three weeks every summer brings world-class chamber music to Cleveland.
At 8:15 p.m. Tuesday June 29 in the Amphitheater, Elliott and ChamberFest Cleveland will perform a lively set incorporating Schubert, Dvořák, Brahms and the Beatles.
Elliott can’t wait to see the audience’s reaction to their performance. He said the pieces will be an eclectic mix and that the performers will be “making grooves and making vibes.”
“It’s magic,” Elliott said. “They’re some of the funnest pieces I’ve ever played. We’re having a blast. We can’t stop laughing over playing these pieces. And I just can’t wait to see how that translates across the stage.”
Playing with new people is something Elliott enjoys immensely.
“I guess feeding off of their amazing energy and personality with who they are specifically, but also in musicianship, as well, is really just about something I could do all day,” Elliott said.
He has always loved playing music with friends and grew up playing alongside his family. Elliott said that despite her aspirations for a family quartet, his mother never intended for her children to be professional musicians. She was introduced to music in middle school, and it became an escape for her. His mother wanted Elliott and her other children to enjoy music as much as she did.
Now, Elliott listens to a lot of rap and rhythm and blues. One of his favorite artists is Foreign Exchange, a hip-hop duo that performs everything from rap to slow acoustics.
“I was playing a playlist for someone,” Elliott said, “and an hour later, he was like, ‘This is all one person?’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ ”
As Elliott recently posted on Instagram, “Music has the power to give people faith and hope. It can cheer people up and completely change their mood.”
Yet, music is often taken for granted. Elliott said that for him, music is as essential as breathing or eating.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to just be when we’re turning on a song like on an iPhone,” Elliott said. “It can just be if we’re just sitting on a beach, listening to waves, sitting in the park or any atmospheric noise.”