Phoenix Leach was three years old when he heard Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time. The instant he heard Mercury’s charismatic and powerful voice, Leach was hooked.
“I remembered Phoenix asked me, ‘Mummy, who is that?’ What three-year-old asks that,” Leach’s mom, Sherry Torkos said with a laugh.
After he heard the song, Leach wanted to hear it again, and again.
“Phoenix wanted to know everything about Freddie Mercury, who he was, was he still alive,” Torkos explained.
So, Phoenix and his parents searched for Queen videos on YouTube and Leach studied him. One of the first videos the young boy watched was Mercury’s Live Aid performance.
He learned all the words to his new favourite song and learned everything he could about this amazing singer he just discovered.
Torkos remembers watching her son pretending to play Bohemian Rhapsody on his toy piano as a toddler. He’d even tried to sing the words and did his very best to perform the song note for note.
When asked what it is about Queen that’s so special, Leach couldn’t quite put his finger on it.
“I don’t know. I just think of how beautiful it sounded to me.”
He said Bohemian Rhapsody is a song that “changed (his) life and made him love music.
Torkos and her husband, Rick, aren’t musically inclined, and although they had a Queen CD somewhere in the house, they weren’t what they would describe as super fans.
But the couple continued to fuel their son’s passion for music, and at the age of five, Phoenix began music lessons under the guidance of Margie Feduck in Sherkston.
“Margie is incredible with Phoenix and she’s a stickler for (technique) and making sure a piece is played right,” Torkos said.
They found an old heavy piano on Kijiji in need of some tender love and care and fixed it up as best they could.
“The keys were ivory and chipped. Phoenix worked with it for about a year and that’s about the time we realized he was pretty serious, and we invested in a new Yamaha piano,” Torkos said.
By the time Leach turned six, his parents said they noticed his growing passion and his ability to quickly pick songs up by ear.
About six months ago, Leach began learning the guitar from Rob Rolston at the Fort Erie Music Academy, which has been a lot of fun for him.
He enjoys playing everything from classical music to Queen and a variety of classic rock songs including Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire.”
He practices about 10 to 15 minutes a day, although when he was younger, sometimes it was a bit difficult because he has always been so full of energy and on the go.
“When he was little, it was hard to get him to sit still,” she said. “When he first started, it would be for a couple of minutes.”
The eight-year-old Grade 3 Garrison Road student was recently featured playing a Concertino in D Minor, by Walter and Carol Noona, in an episode of CHCH’s Tiny Talent Time. It’s a piece he performed at the Festival of the Arts in Port Colborne and won a gold medal for.
The budding musician first heard about the opportunity through the Down the Rabbit Hole Theatre Company.
Torkos said producers approached the local theatre company and asked to send in auditions.
“We sent in a video and the producers got back to us within two hours,” Torkos said.
Leach typically plays the concerto which has parts for two musicians, with his music teacher but had to learn and play both parts on his own for the television performance.
“He learned his teacher’s part in a couple of lessons, and he did the television performance in one take,” the proud mom said.
When asked if he was nervous about being on television, Leach laughed and said, “it was easy.”
Torkos said it took a lot of hard work for her song to get there, and admits she was probably more nervous then he was.
“Phoenix operates well under pressure. If you put him on stage, something kicks in and when he’s under pressure, he gives a flawless performance.”
What Leach said he liked about the experience was meeting other kids and having the chance to perform on television.
Up next, the youngster is planning to perform with the Niagara Youth Orchestra on April 6 at St. Thomas’ Church at 99 Ontario St. in St. Catharines. The show will start at 3:30 p.m.
While Leach doesn’t have any of his plans set in stone, when he grows up, he hopes that his job includes music in some way.
“I would like that,” he said.
His parents say they have no expectations for their son, they just want to see him enjoy something he is passionate about.
“There are so many benefits to music,” Torkos said.
There’s a lot of research that shows music helps improve fine motor skills, language and even makes students better at math.
When she was pregnant with her son, Torkos put headphones on her belly and played a lot of Bach and Mozart.
“I read a lot of that research that says music helps with brain development and I thought I have nothing to lose.”
“I think he came out of the womb with an affinity for music,” Torkos laughed.