Tuesday, June 19, 2018
News Roundup

Brandon's Elias Phoenix wows 'Ellen' and audience (w/video)

A Brandon piano prodigy who earned a trip to Carnegie Hall late last year now has another feather in his sparkly hat.

Elias Phoenix, 7, appeared on the Ellen Show on Friday and charmed the audience with his exuberant -- some might call it hyper -- repartee with the Oscars host. The clip was posted to YouTube later that day and had more than 1.3 million views by late Monday afternoon.

He flirted. ("You are cute!") He gave advice ("Hey, be just the way you are. Do not put on any hair gel.") And he hugged. Boy, did he like giving hugs, popping out of his seat several times to throw his arms around his new best friend.

But then he did something that left the audience gaping in wonder: He danced his way to a piano and started playing a beautiful classical piece.

Suddenly, all of the silliness and joking disappeared, and the little performer played like he had at Carnegie Hall. Intense. Focused.

Elias had won the trip to the prestigious venue by submitting a video to the American Protégé International Music Talent Competition. He came in second place and was off to New York.

In a story in November, the Times wrote about Elias and his twin brother, Zion. Their mom, Bree Phoenix, started giving Elias and Zion, piano lessons when the boys were about 3. As a child and teen, Phoenix had received lessons on the French horn. But she taught herself to play the piano.

The twins instantly took to the instrument. So, Phoenix got not one but two baby grand pianos.

Phoenix, who grew up in Clearwater, gave birth to Elias and Zion in Nebraska. Phoenix moved back to the area when the twins were 1, settling in Brandon.

The boys' waist-length golden locks are rooted in the tough times following their birth, correspondent Monica Bennett explained in the Times. They were born at 30 weeks, each just under 3 pounds, and stayed in the hospital about five weeks. Nurses poked and prodded the boys, often shaving their hair to insert IVs.

When they left the hospital, Phoenix pledged she wouldn't cut their hair and she hasn't. The boys say they like their long hair, even though peers occasionally tease them.

There was no teasing on the Ellen Show, just cheerful, joyous camaraderie. Ellen even said so in a tweet:

Just finished taping 1 of the most memorable interviews I've ever done, with a 7-yr-old. Airs tomorrow. You have to see it to believe it.

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