S.A. teen went from 'sick child' to musical prodigy
FORT SAM HOUSTON -- He's a teenager who lives on base at Fort Sam Houston and scholars call him a musical prodigy.
He's been awarded a scholarship to attend one of the best universities in the country for aspiring musicians.
His name is Ellis Hamilton and he's 17-years-old.
"I fell in love with music at around age three or four when I saw the movie Drumline," Ellis said. "My parents bought me my first drum kit at age six and then I just rolled with it."
At 8-years-old, Ellis started composing his own songs.
"At around age eight, I taught myself how to play the piano. My mom told me that I wrote a song at age five, but I remember eight!" Ellis said.
When the Hamilton family moved to Germany, Ellis began taking part-time classes in band. He has been home-schooled his whole life, but took part-time classes when he could while abroad.
That's when he fell in love with the alto sax.
"I can be cooking and he'll be playing music. I could be cleaning and he's playing something else," said Ellis's mother, Caryn Hamilton. "One time I remember I was cooking pasta and he was playing The Godfather Suite."
When Ellis writes his music, he thinks of how the other instruments will sound in harmony. He said when he records, he starts on the drums.
"When I record my drums, for example, I'm hearing every other instrument in my head as I go along."
His father, Lance, remembers a time when he suggested Ellis take a two-week break from music. Ellis was in the middle of writing a composition and struggled to finish it to perfection.
It was during that two-week break when Ellis wrote his first film.
"He'll get lost in the music," said Lance about Ellis doing his chores for the day. "Half an hour later I'll come back and the five things he had to clean, two of them were completed."
For Ellis, just having the capacity to play music is truly miraculous.
"The doctors and therapists said that I was the sickest child in the hospital," Lance said.
At birth, doctors thought he wouldn't be able to see, hear or talk.
"They said I would be severely learning disabled or mentally retarded," Ellis said. "That's when the significance of just music and what I'm able to accomplish really hits me."
The 17-year-old credits his advancement to his mentors, and his family. He said without them, his journey through life wouldn't be the same.
Ellis leaves next Saturday for Berklee College of Music in Boston on a full ride scholarship.
He also earned an additional $25,000 scholarship from the Davidson Institute for Talent Development. Part of what impressed the judges was his original composition, "Gabby's Theme," written for Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas.
"At the same time she was celebrating her victory, she also had to deal with a lot of negativity," said Ellis about Douglas. "I do hope to record and/or perform it for her professionally because I have a home recording right now!"
The following is a quote from the judging panel of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development: “Just about everything in Ellis’ submission makes it significant. You can begin with the enormous prodigious talent that Ellis exhibits on the saxophone, piano, and even the drums - add to that his gifts as a composer and arranger - those alone are enough. However, when you add to that the passion, love for music and on top of all of that add the disabilities he has had to overcome - wow - this is a very gifted young man - someone that is unstoppable as far as his future success.”
Ellis told us he plans to be a performance and film scoring double-major at Berklee, and he aspires to be a film writer, a director, an actor and an author.
"With faith, hard work, prayer and determination, everything and anything is possible," Ellis said.