A standing-room only crowd gathered Friday, July 8 at the Chicago Cultural Center to listen to world-renowned pianist Lang Lang perform with three young scholars as part of his International Music Foundation’s mission to promote music education. Kids in the audience squirmed eagerly in their seats, peering over shoulders to see the three scholars who were surrounded by photographers and reporters.
Lang Lang personally selects and mentors talented young pianists from around the world and creates opportunities for them to inspire other kids in communities through live classical performances. “How many of you play an instrument?” Lang Lang asked the crowd of mostly children. Dozens of eager hands went up.
Lang Lang gave the first scholar, 11-year-old Anna Larsen, a high-five before she sat down at the piano to play two pieces, one of which she composed herself. “It has a spooky feel,” she said. “Like people dressed up as goblins on Halloween.” Following Larsen were 10-year-old Charlie Liu, who played Bach and Moszkowski, and 12-year-old Derek Wang, who played Chopin.
Fresh off of his performance at the Ravinia Festival the evening before, Lang Lang then joined Ravinia Festival President Welz Kauffman in a question-and-answer session. Lang Lang mentioned that he was originally inspired to play music at a young age after watching a famous Tom & Jerry cartoon that features Tom playing Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.2. The three students commented on the many hours of practice it takes for them to be successful, but that the efforts are worth it.
The young scholars captivated and impressed the crowd with their talent and dedication to studying music. Kauffman was impressed, as well. He gave each of the three scholars his business card noting that “some day they’ll be playing at the Ravinia Festival.”