As a six year old, Carter Elliott aspired to become a performer. Unlike most people who shift their career goals as they grow older, Elliott pursues his six-year-old fantasy as a jazz studies sophomore at the university.
He can often be found performing in the Syndicate or grinding in one of the Honors Hall practice rooms.
Elliott began his musical journey around the age of four when his grandmother signed him up for piano lessons — however, Elliott said he has always had a knack for improvisation. He now has 15 years of piano experience and has played the guitar since the age of seven. Now, he plays a total of 12 instruments, with his most recent addition being a flute he purchased on Facebook Marketplace.
“It turned more into what I wanted to be than a hobby,” Elliott said. “I picked up various bits along the way, and now here I am.”
Elliott’s most recent step in his musical journey is the release of his first single, “Child of the Small,” which made its debut Oct. 9. The song started as a class assignment, but grew into something more meaningful when Elliott and a friend discovered their love for each other despite their struggles, creating the lyrics of the song.
“Life can suck, but you’ll always have people who are there for you and will appreciate you and will have your back,” Elliott said. “It’s a really encouraging song.”
Elliott started recording the song in July, and his friend Catherine Dunlap created the artwork, which drove Elliott to his commitment to releasing the song. Once the song was recorded, he was hesitant to release it for two months, but made the decision to reveal it on a September evening.
Elliott said he was drawn to the university because of the jazz program, which was suggested to him by a former piano teacher. He said his decision was solidified in September 2019 when he toured the university and had a trial lesson with piano professor Dave Meder.
“[Elliott] is very driven and has strong musical instinct,” Meder said. “He knows how to think big and program interesting pieces on his musical sets. I’m looking forward to witnessing his continued musical growth over the next few years.”
From the beginning, James Taylor has been Elliott’s main musical influence because he grew up listening to his music played by his parents. As he grew older, he recorded and uploaded videos performing Taylor’s songs on Instagram, which led Elliott to gaining a following on the platform, including from Taylor himself.
After COVID-19 closures affected Elliott’s ability to perform for more than a year, he got back into it this summer with performances at The Loophole in Denton, Twisted Root Burger Co. in Coppell and most recently, open mic nights and 1155 Live held by the University Program Council. He said his favorite place to perform is the Syndicate because he is able to showcase his skills for his peers who he resonates with.
Elliott said he has a small but dependable support system that he can count on who see him as a friend and not just a musician. He also said the faculty here has been supportive of him and his peers in the College of Music.
“[Elliott] is kind and caring to the people around him, even if he doesn’t know them well,” said Lex Boicoi, ecology sophomore and Elliott’s friend.
At the end of the day, Elliott’s main goal is to perform and create music.
“It feels right,” Elliott said. “I could not see myself doing anything other than music. It’s become such a part of me that’s never going to leave.”
Featured Image: Jazz studies sophomore Carter Elliott poses alongside the piano in the UNT Union on Oct. 7, 2021. Photo by John Anderson