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Lang Goes Goodwill Hunting
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The former child prodigy who has blossomed into one of the biggest names in classical music, lived up to his role as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador this month when he donated the first Steinway-designed Lang Lang children's piano to help the HIV/AIDS and Children project in Southwest China's Yunnan Province.

"Music is like a language; it's like a universal language. It has the connection to the people and also the feeling from your soul, from your heart," Lang Lang said. "I think the best way to reach children is to play them music. This really opens their ears and their minds."

Lang, who was born into a musical family in Shenyang of Northeast China, began his piano studies at the age of 3, giving his first public recital when he was only 5. He entered the Central Conservatory of Music of China at 9. In 1997, accompanied by his father, the 15-year-old studied with Gary Graffman at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.

"Studying piano as a child, sometimes, is no fun. I had to sit there under the watchful eyes of my teachers and parents for hours," he said. "But when I play piano, I can hear the music. The rhythm inspired many vivid mental pictures, which I have drawn."

Lang gave his piano "child-friendly" design elements, such as a reversible front panel, which converts into a whiteboard and a music desk.

He recalled that it was the cartoon Tom and Jerry that inspired him to become a pianist. He was only a toddler, but he remembered seeing Tom the cat playing Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 and thinking, "Wow, this is pretty cool".

In April 2001, the 18-year-old made his critically acclaimed Carnegie Hall debut. He has also given concerts with big names such as the New York Philharmonic.

He was appointed as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2004 as the organization's youngest celebrity recruit. Lang performs about 110 concerts a year, including 25 charity concerts for UNICEF.

"I've been very fortunate. I've had wonderful parents, teachers and friends. So, to give something in return, I think the best thing is to help children. We need to open our eyes and hearts for the world."

Lang kicked off his world university tour from Peking University Hall on April 18.

(China Daily April 28, 2007) 

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