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The City Journals

Olympus Sterling Scholar Miles Fawson works hard to hone talent and skill

Jul 01, 2022 08:43AM ● By Heather Lawrence

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Sitting at a restaurant on March 17, huddled around a screen, Miles Fawson and his family had a magical moment.

“We went out to dinner together and were watching the KSL live stream of the Sterling Scholar Awards,” Fawson said. An aspiring concert pianist, he represented Olympus High as a finalist in Instrumental Music.  

When his category’s overall winner was announced, he saw his picture and name appear on screen. He had won the top prize.

“It was unbelievable. I just sat there and couldn’t talk for five minutes. My family started cheering—I think everyone at the restaurant thought we were crazy,” Fawson said.

The payoff was years in the making. Fawson has taken lessons since he was 7 years old, and also plays the violin and organ. Early on, he realized that talent would only take him so far.  

“I had been taking lessons for three or four years and honestly I didn’t enjoy it. My mom gave me an ultimatum: either I could manage my practicing, or I had to quit,” Fawson said.

He decided to “go all in.”

“I made it part of my identity. I didn’t have to tell myself to practice anymore because it became part of my routine.”

Serious about his training, Fawson practiced two hours a day. That increased to four or five hours if he had a performance. In summer, he’d sometimes practice seven hours a day.

Dedication to music is part of the Fawson family’s culture. Miles’s parents Carol and Paul Fawson both play instruments, as do his older siblings Liesl and Graham, and his younger sister Julia.  

“My dad is an incredible support to us all. He plays the guitar and sings. But it’s my mom who had the formal training. She is an accomplished pianist and violinist. She had all her kids take lessons, and now we all play and some of us teach,” Fawson said.

Music has given Fawson unique opportunities. In addition to playing with his family and at church and school, he’s competed internationally. He played at Carnegie Hall in New York at 10 years old and in St. Petersburg, Russia.  

Fawson faced another challenge when the family moved to Holladay from Arizona in 2020. He started his junior year at a new high school and had to find his music community.   

“I didn’t know anyone. We were all wearing masks and it was during COVID, so it was hard to get to know people. 

“By senior year I had made friends and was more well-known. I accompanied the choir and played for the theater department. I joined the orchestra and played in Concerto Night. Olympus turned into a home for me,” Fawson said.

His focus had been classical piano, but since graduation he started branching out.

“I had been playing just what my teacher assigned me, but I’m not taking lessons right now and I’ve been playing more pop and jazz.

“Now that I don’t have set pieces to learn, if I’m sitting down at the piano I’ll be improvising something. I was definitely trained to read music precisely from the page and make it my own with interpretation, but I have shifted to more playing by ear and free form,” Fawson said.  

Academics are important to Fawson, and he plans to attend BYU and study piano performance. He also loves getting outside to mountain bike or hike with his friends and family. But he’s got a new goal now: learn Spanish.

“I am serving a Spanish-speaking mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Fawson said. He’s never studied Spanish, so this will be a new challenge. His mission service assignment is in Eugene, Oregon.  

Whatever his future holds, Fawson said music taught him that talent can only get you so far: at some point you need to take responsibility for your goals and progress.

“I think you can get to a certain point with talent and people guiding you along the way. When you make a goal like I did with music, eventually there will be resistance and challenges.

“You make a decision for yourself whether to run with it,” Fawson said. “Passion, drive, motivation; if you don’t have those things, no amount of talent is going to turn into anything great.”