Edon Pinchot is the Skokie teen, a freshman at Ida Crown Jewish Academy, who took the country by storm in 2012 on America's Got Talent. He wowed the judges and charmed the crowd with his heartfelt piano renditions of today's hits, reaching the semi-finals-all while proudly wearing his kippah. He opened for Aziz Ansari at YLD's Big Event on the first night of Chanukah in December.
Below are excerpts from an interview with the phenom. The full interview is available as a podcast on www.jufnews.org.
On deciding to audition for America's Got Talent
I had always been a fan. I had seen that they had had really talented kids on the show. People were encouraging me to put my talent out there.
On auditioning and performing
Up to going on the show, I had never had experiences of going in front of a crowd. I had never performed in front of more than 10 to 15 people. It was nerve-wracking but also exciting. My dad and I flew down to Austin for the audition. It looked like a circus! There were acrobats and dancers, and crazy, crazy acts. It was overwhelming, but the response from the judges and crowd was exciting. As the show went on, it became live [for every performance], so then I was more nervous. Once you are in front of that crowd, there is not much you can do. Performing was one of my favorite parts of the entire experience. That was fun for me. Once you start playing, you let everything go.
On his songs
The songs were chosen by me. As the competition goes on, they give you tips. By the live round, it's me choosing the songs and them approving them. In between each stage of the competition I had about two months of preparation, which was more than enough. It's fun to take songs that other people already have a connection to, and to be able to make it your own- one of the most exciting parts of the show. I listen to a pretty big variety of music. I recently got into country, and I listen to pop and alternative. I listen to one song over and over until I get sick of it!
On piano lessons
I started when I was 9. I had been asking my parents for a couple of years at that point. I was playing classical, and I hated it, for a year and a half. I wanted to quit. One summer, I stopped taking lessons. But my friends were at camp. I had nothing to do. I sat down and started playing something I heard on the radio with one finger, which started to turn into chords, and then I started to teach myself a little bit. I realized I had to start taking lessons again…I had something going for me there! I started with more mainstream chord progressions, more what I wanted. Having that background in classical music really helped!
On being openly Jewish on national TV
We got some comments about what the yarmulke is. People would ask why I couldn't be there on Shabbos. Overall, I was treated like anyone else, which was an amazing part. It was an experiment, to see how people would accept someone wearing a kippah, how they would react. As the show went on, we started to realize more reactions across the country, more people picking up on me. That's when it hit us, the aspect of me kind of representing the Jewish nation. That was one of the really cool parts. As the competition went on, I started to see more Jews were following me, excited about what I was going to do.
On his life and music now
I came back from New York, straight into starting high school! In the past months, I have been doing a couple of performances. I did the GA (The General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America). I am going to start doing some more YouTube stuff. Hopefully, I'll be able to record some original music.
On what he learned
From a performance aspect, I've really matured. Getting a response from a crowd like that, and the judges, was amazing for me. I had my doubts, [thinking] 'This person is better than me. There is no was I'm getting though this stage.' I really progressed with my music and as a performer. One of my main goals in my music career is to be able to share it with everyone. You don't need to make up some alter ego, to change everything about you in order to have people enjoy what you do. You have to stay true to who you are. I've matured, but I've tried to stay the same person I was.