Kelly Yang Interviews Lang Lang

Kelly Yang Interviews Lang Lang

By Kelly Yang, Published in the South China Morning Post, December 2014:

His hands glide across the pearly keys. His hair moves to the sound, like a tree swaying in the wind. His face is a highway of emotions – sorrow dancing with euphoria, pain melting into passion. Watching him is as moving as hearing him.

As I watched the piano superstar Lang Lang work his magic at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre last week, I thought of the long journey it took him to get to this stage. The six hours of daily practice starting at age three, the long separation from his mother in the middle of his childhood, his first teacher in Beijing who didn’t believe in him and told him to quit, the fight with his father afterwards which almost drove him to suicide … How was he able to succeed, despite these heartbreaking challenges?

After the concert, I sat down backstage with Lang Lang and his mother Zhou Xiulan to find out. His mother was a glowing picture of maternal pride. Watching her tell the story of their success, as she calls it, I got the sense that Lang Lang’s triumph was inevitable. He simply had to succeed. His parents pinned all their own dreams and hopes, crushed by the Cultural Revolution, onto their little boy.

Hearing her recall the hard times – Lang Lang practising for hours without air conditioning in the summer, in just his underwear, and in the winter without any heat – I couldn’t help but wonder, what about the kids today who don’t grow up like that? What about the kids who come from privilege and have a wealth of other options – do they have a chance to become the next Lang Lang?

Read the full version here: