Teen Trumpet-Playing Prodigy Needs Help Raising $91K For Juilliard

by Christina Marfice
Image via Twentyfive Musical / YouTube

If anyone deserves an education at Juilliard, it’s William Leathers

There are people who are talented musicians, and then there are the genuine prodigies. The prodigies are the people who seem like they were born to make music, who effortlessly outpace their peers, who have a genuine gift that needs to be shared with the world.

William Leathers is a prodigy. The 17-year-old trumpet player started on the piano at the age of four, before becoming the youngest player ever accepted into the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra at only 12. Oh, and he sounds like a literal angel when he plays. Seriously.

Oh, and here he is playing the piano with one hand and the trumpet with the other, in case there was somehow lingering doubt about his insane talent.

As Leathers has grown up and honed his natural gift for music, he’s had a lifelong dream: to study at the ultra-prestigious Juilliard School in New York City. Now, he’s been accepted — one of only three trumpet players to get in this year. There’s just one problem: Tuition at Juilliard is far out of reach of Leathers’ family — and probably most families, honestly.

For Leathers, who’s from Toronto, Canada, tuition will cost around CAD$91,000 per year. As an international student, he doesn’t qualify for most U.S. grants and scholarships. Since he’s going to a U.S. school, he doesn’t qualify for most Canadian grants and scholarships.

“There’s been some scholarship offered from Juilliard but not all, and Juilliard’s very expensive,” Leathers told CBC. Expensive is an understatement. Juilliard is one of the most acclaimed performing arts schools in the world. And while Leathers’ family has managed to scrape together $25,500, they’re still $65,000 short of what they need just for the first year of tuition. They’re turning to crowd sourcing to try to help Leathers achieve his dream. People can donate to Leathers’ YouCaring page, which is inching closer to the $65,000 he needs.

“I find it incredible,” Leathers said as thousands of donations have come in. “People that don’t even know me, all these people in Canada are trying to help me out.”

Meanwhile, Leathers has some big names in his corner. Wynton Marsalis, one of the most acclaimed jazz musicians in the world, heard Leathers play when he was only 12 and told his teacher, “this kid belongs at Juilliard.” In fact, everyone who hears Leathers play can tell that’s true. Now, let’s get him there.