On a quiet Friday night in Studio City, a crowd has gathered to see whom many consider to be a musical prodigy.
Dylan Dunlap, a lifelong Studio City native, sits at the keyboard performing his rendition of "Lonely Boy" by The Black Keys.
At 16, the 6-foot-3-inch teen has just become one of the youngest members of the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers.
"For his age, he is much more experienced and well-versed than appears," said Scott Newman, 52, owner the of Oyster House Restaurant and Saloon, where Dunlap is performing. "He brings a stage presence that I think is unusual for his age and unusual for the musicians that play here."
Dunlap began playing the piano by ear at the age of 5. Although he received instruction in chords and theory, he had no formal training and cannot sight read.
"I picture how to play it in my head while I'm hearing it," he said.
The self-taught artist composes in his bedroom using Pro Tools and GarageBand. His first instrumental album, titled Volume 1, released in November 2011, is available on iTunes. Additionally, the teenager has registered 115 original compositions with Broadcast Music, Inc.
"I compose entire songs in my head," Dunlap said. "I don't come out of my room until it's done."
Dunlap began singing nine months ago and performs a mixture of popular covers and original compositions for gigs. For his live original compositions he strips the piano from the piece and plays it live to the original prerecorded composition—a style that many think sets him apart from other artists.
"His sound is much richer than just a solo keyboard player. You can obviously hear it, he not just a guy playing keyboards up there," Newman said. "We have an opportunity now to see a young man in the early stages of his career."
In July 2012, Rolling Stone reviewed his cover of Linkin Park's "Burn it Down," which Dunlap released on his YouTube channel: MrDylanDunlapMusic.
He listened to the Linkin Park song and played it from memory, he said. "Absolutely no effort was put into learning the song."
In his short career the pianist has scored a short film for a university project, ghost-written cues for several television shows and scored the short film Symbol of Peace by director Zev Vel which was viewed at several film festivals.
"He's incredibly talented for his age," said Emily Palame, 23, store manager at Guitar Merchant in Canoga Park, a venue where Dunlap has performed often. "He's in the top 20 of acts that have come through here out of hundreds."
Dunlap has already completed high school, and hopes to attend Berklee College of Music in the fall of 2013. He lists among his future goals the opportunity to score a feature film.
"An all time dream is to go to a movie that I did," he said.
Dunlap performs at the Oyster House Restaurant and Saloon on Jan. 11, and the Guitar Merchant on Jan. 25.