Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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.

Brandon's Elias Phoenix wows 'Ellen' and audience (w/video) 01/20/14 [Last modified: Monday, January 20, 2014 8:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Triad Retail Media names Sherry Smith as CEO


    ST. PETERSBURG — Triad Retail Media, a St. Petersburg-based digital ads company, said CEO Roger Berdusco is "leaving the company to pursue new opportunities" and a member of the executive team, Sherry Smith, is taking over.

    Roger Berdusco is stepping down as CEO at Triad Retail Media to pursue other opportunities. [Courtesy of Triad Retail Media]
  2. What to watch this week: Fall TV kicks off with 'Will & Grace,' 'Young Sheldon,' return of 'This Is Us'


    September temperatures are still creeping into the 90s, but fall officially started a few days ago. And with that designation comes the avalanche of new and returning TV shows. The Big Bang Theory fans get a double dose of Sheldon Cooper's nerdisms with the return of the titular series for an eleventh season and …

    Sean Hayes, Debra Messing and Megan Mullally in Will & Grace.
  3. Eight refueling jets from Arkansas, 250 people heading to new home at MacDill


    TAMPA — The number of KC-135 refueling jets at MacDill Air Force Base will grow from 18 to 24 with the return of a squadron that once called Tampa home.

    A KC-135 Stratotanker, a military aerial refueling jet, undergoes maintenance at MacDill Air Force Base. The planes, many flying since the late 1950s, are now being flown more than twice as much as scheduled because of ongoing foreign conflicts. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Bucs couldn't connect on or stop deep passes in loss to Vikings


    If two things were established as storylines entering Sunday's Bucs-Vikings game, it was that Tampa Bay was still struggling to establish the deep passes that were missing from its offense last year, and that …

    Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) gets into the end zone for a long touchdown reception as Bucs free safety Chris Conte (23) cannot stop him during the second half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. Alejandro Villanueva, Steelers player and Army vet who stood alone, now has the NFL's top-selling jersey


    CHICAGO — When the national anthem started at Soldier Field on Sunday, the visiting sideline was mostly empty. The most prominent evidence of the Pittsburgh Steelers was offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, standing all by himself near the tunnel, holding his right hand over his heart.

    Alejandro Villanueva stands alone during the national anthem at Soldier Field in Chicago. [Associated Press]