For many people, Lang Lang came to their attention when he took the stage the at 2014 World Cup concert in Rio, or for his performances at back to back Grammy Award shows that same year and the following, but his talent and career was soaring well before any of this. What you get when you see Lang Lang is nothing short of passion. The love and respect this brilliant musician has for not only the art, but the impact of what music represents is undeniable not only when he performs, but when he speaks. Having performed with orchestras all over the world has not tired the Chinese pianist, its fueled his drive even more. With the launch of the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, Lang Lang hopes to pass on the inspiration and love he has for music to many generations to come.
YRB: Why did you decide to create the Lang Lang International Music Foundation?
Lang Lang: The impact that music has had on my life is immeasurable. I created the Foundation because I wanted all children to have access to musical experiences that ignite something wonderful inside of them, just as music delivered something incredible for me. My dream is to use music as a way to inspire kids around the world in a meaningful and sustainable way. I want to show them what they’re capable of achieving, and that no dream is too big.
YRB: What has seeing your vision come to fruition most done for you?
Lang Lang: Seeing the smiles on the faces of the children motivates me to spend more time and energy creating unique experiences to reach even more children. I am very thankful for the individuals and corporations that believe in the work that we are doing and who are supporting the growth of the Foundation.
YRB: What has having the foundation most taught you about yourself?
Lang Lang: It’s been so rewarding to watch the children who are part of the Foundation begin their musical journeys. I see so much of myself in them—I see them experience the joy of learning and the thrill of making music for the first time. Listening to classical music with a child’s wonder constantly reminds me how accessible music can be.
YRB: What has been your biggest source of inspiration?
Lang Lang: Traveling makes it difficult to find time to have a moment to myself, but I find inspiration for my life and for my career in nature. The natural world is persistent, strong, and awe-inspiring. There is music in nature, and I hear it everywhere I go. It guides me through my travels and reminds me to appreciate our world. I recently performed at Oceanographic Valencia, in Spain, at their shark tanks. The sharks were a great audience! It was extraordinary to play beside them and watch as they swam around me. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
YRB: Can you explain how music impacts our lives and its importance to us all?
Lang Lang: Music makes life better. It heals, unites and inspires, and it makes us better people. It reaches our hearts and souls, and speaks to us in a way that nothing else can. Music can bring people together, regardless of who they are or where they’re from. Everyone should experience and celebrate the power and beauty of music.
YRB: Who are some of your favorite classical and non- classical composers?
Lang Lang: I love all composers! I can’t pick a favorite— they’re all great! They’re all equally important. Mozart, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Beethoven…there are so many, and they all speak to me in different ways.
YRB: From an acoustic standpoint what U.S. venue have you most enjoyed performing and hearing your music as you’ve played?
Lang Lang: I’ve played in so many venues it’s difficult to pick a favorite. Every performance has been a reward- ing and wonderful experience, but Carnegie Hall holds a special place in my heart.
YRB: What is your favorite piano?
Lang Lang: Steinway is my favorite to play on. Nothing can match the feel, the sound, or the quality. They are beautifully crafted instruments. I will always love the very first piano I ever had. It was a brand new upright, and it was beautiful. I can still remember how it felt to touch the keys for the first time. It was magic.
YRB: Do you play any other instruments?
Lang Lang: I love all music and all instruments, but I only have time for one.
YRB: What artists would you like to collaborate with?
Lang Lang: I really enjoy cross over collaborations with pop artists like Metallica and Pharrell, because it pushes boundaries with music. People say that classical music doesn’t belong in that territory, but I believe that music is music. It all has power, and when you bring different genres together, you create something truly unique and moving.
YRB: Is this the life you’ve always envisioned for yourself?
Lang Lang: This is the only life I’ve ever wanted. I worked so hard to get here, and every moment of it has been worthwhile. I am so grateful to be living my dream.
YRB: What advice would you give a beginning pianist?
Lang Lang: My advice would be to have fun, but still practice hard. Keep practicing, and you will start to see little improvements. Those are moments of joy! Practice, and have fun! Making music is about communication, and bringing our hearts together. No matter what level you are playing at, you need to bring your best self to the piano. Always remember, you are playing music. It’s not just notes on a page; it’s a story you get to tell, from your heart to another.
YRB: What has been the best advice given to you?
Lang Lang: When I was first starting out at The Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, my teacher, Gary Graffman, taught me to concentrate on the music—not on winning competitions. He taught me to treat the music like poetry, and called me a poet of the piano. I understood his message, but it took time for the words to sink in. I carry them with me now, in my heart, everywhere I go.
YRB: Whats next for you and the Lang Lang International Music Foundation?
Lang Lang: We are working hard to continue creating opportunities for young musicians and students all over the world. We’ve just announced our new group of Young Scholars, and we received more applications than ever for our education initiative, Keys of InspirationTM. We’ll be opening three new schools in the 2016-2017 school year! We’re now offering music and art therapy programs in pediatric hospitals, have 101 Pianist events booked all over the world, and are constantly coming up with new opportunities.