Beyond the performance: Lang Lang is an educator

Lang lang photo philip glaser gala  large
Lang Lang © Philip Glaser

It will be quite a moment when Lang Lang takes the stage Saturday. He has performed for over a billion people at a time, and has taken the planet by storm. Those who follow classical music may have had Chinese pianist Lang Lang on their radar for many years, but for most of us it was his sensational performance at the 2008 Bejing Olympics that made the first indelible impression – hands flying over the keyboard, head echoing the flourishes of the majestic phrases.

Lang Lang cuts a cool figure: he’s nimble in the Twitterverse, and speaks about the global resonances of music. He’ll be wearing a cutting-edge suit this Saturday designed by Toronto designer Rosemarie Umetsu. See? Undeniably cool.

But there’s great substance beneath this attractive surface: Lang Lang is an educator. He is dedicated to the idea that children need music, and benefit from musical training. Lang Lang’s hope is that children who experience classical music performance live will be lifted by it emotionally – as emotionally as he is by it. We’ve all heard about the studies about brain elasticity – the way the brain expands with the number of neural connections that are created, through new experiences – and musical experiences. Surely Lang Lang is living proof of this: having played piano since he was age 3, he now commands the keyboard with such passion, agility and sensitivity that he brings a hall to life. His energy is apparent as he brings young artists on stage with him to perform, and as he teaches them technique and approach in his masterclasses. (Lang Lang’s masterclass, sponsored by Bombardier, with 3 young artists is this Friday, at 2 p.m. at the NAC. You are welcome to attend.)

This Saturday’s NAC Gala, presented by CIBC, supports the goals of both Lang Lang and NACO Music Director Pinchas Zukerman – to help instill a life-long love of the performing arts in young people across Canada. The NAC Gala has raised more than $7.7 million over the past 15 years to support the National Youth and Education Trust. Each year, more than 100,000 young people participate in activities made possible by gifts to the NYET. Funds from the Trust allow the NAC to create superb programming for young audiences, develop the world’s best young artists and support performing arts education in Canadian classrooms.

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