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Maestro and Mentor: Lang Lang Is Dedicated to Elevating the Subsequent Technology of Musicians and Artists

Maestro and Mentor: Lang Lang Is Dedicated to Elevating the Subsequent Technology of Musicians and Artists

In town for just a short weekend performance, virtuoso pianist and former Prestige cover personality Lang Lang discusses his work in fostering the next generation of young talents.

An internationally acclaimed piano virtuoso who’s spent the last two decades playing in almost every corner of the world, Lang Lang rarely visits Hong Kong, in spite of the special connection he has with the city. So it’s easy to understand why tickets to his one-session-only masterclass at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, which is organised by the First Initiative Foundation, a charity supporting local initiatives that benefit the arts, education, community welfare and cultural heritage, was sold out instantly.

Sure, there’s been a surge in masterclasses – and especially online – in the past few years by everyone from musicians, actors and designers to chefs and even former CIA operatives, but unlike the usual videos of these exceptionally talented people looking into the camera explaining impossible feats in a way that somehow makes you believe they’re achievable at home (they aren’t), Lang Lang’s masterclass isn’t just another fleeting experience with no lasting impact. One the contrary, it’s a deeply educational session for the participants who also get to experience an emotional connection with their remarkable tutor.

Over the course of the afternoon, three students from the Lang Lang International Music Foundation’s scholarship programme join the pianist on stage, where he mentors each through the playing of a particular piece of classical music. His attention to detail is sublime, and the passion with which he teaches and plays mesmerising. But as much as he naturally attracts the spotlight, the masterclasses aren’t just about him – or they shouldn’t be, he says.

“I’ve always loved giving masterclasses, even as a teenager,” Lang Lang tells me. “I believe it’s the best way to communicate, because sometimes in classical music we’re quite isolated from the rest of the music world. We’re always in our little bubble, and this has to be changed. I understood even at a young age the urgency of this matter.”

And what is it he wants to communicate? “My aim is to inspire and educate aspiring musicians, providing them with valuable insights, techniques and musical interpretations,” he says. “I want to communicate the importance of hard work, dedication and expression in music while nurturing their love for this art form. It’s through teaching that I can contribute to the growth and development of the next generation of musicians, ensuring that classical music continues to thrive for years to come.”

Taking on the role of guardian for an entire music genre and industry is no easy feat, but since 2008, Lang Lang’s foundation serves as a firm testament to his beliefs. With a history in Hong Kong, it also comes as no surprise that he’s teamed up with FIF and its founder Michelle Ong to extend the outreach of his efforts to this city.

The two first crossed paths in 2004 through a mutual friend in the music business, at a time when Ong was organising an event to benefit Caritas Hospital. “When Lang Lang heard about it, he jumped right in to support the event with a wonderful performance,” Ong recalls. “Honestly, it became clear that we had similar goals and determination in terms of expanding the outreach of the arts and music. I later went on to found FIF for exactly that purpose – and I immediately thought he’d be a wonderful Artist in Support. And he is!”

“It’s really because of Michelle,” Lang Lang adds. “I built this fantastic friendship with her even before she founded FIF. I admire the energy she puts into her philanthropic work, and in a way, she makes everything so much more meaningful. I still remember that hospital event, and I could really tell she cared deeply about the patients and the musicians, and it ended up being a tremendous event. She also has this energy to bring different artists and charitable organisations together, and it’s enormous and powerful.”

Seven years after that performance at Caritas Hospital, the two launched an official partnership. The FIF teamed up with the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, sponsoring scholarships for outstanding young artists in Hong Kong through the Young Scholars Programme, which the pianist tells me is his organisation’s longest-running initiative. Every two years, a new group of young classical pianists is selected to join, two of whom are sponsored by the FIF from this city. Of the programme’s 55 Young Scholars and alumni to date, 12 are from Hong Kong.

“Supporting the younger generation of music artists and performers is of utmost importance to me,” Lang Lang says. “I firmly believe in the power of mentorship and inspiring the next wave of musicians. I’ve been fortunate to have had incredible mentors throughout my own musical journey, and I understand first hand their impact on shaping my career.

“By providing support and guidance to young artists, I hope to nurture their talent, instil a sense of discipline and help them navigate the challenges of a career
in music. I also believe in championing diversity and inclusivity within the classical music world, and by supporting young talent we can ensure a vibrant and dynamic future for the art form. Ultimately, by nurturing and empowering the newer generations, we contribute to the preservation and evolution of classical music.”

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“It’s also an example of the value of role models,” adds Ong. “Of generously giving one’s time and talent to support others, and a commitment to improving the world, note by note. The Young Scholars Programme is one of the key initiatives we have worked on together, and it encapsulates our beliefs and devotion to spreading joy and positivity through music and mentorship.”

 

Although Lang Lang and Ong’s organisations serve as foundational pillars to promote the growth of our city’s young talents, ultimately it’s down to parents, peers and teachers to support the next generation of artists, the pianist tells me. Even if we’re not technically equipped to mentor them, there’s one simple thing we can all do.

“Just come to their concerts! Most of these kids are very talented, but opportunities are few and far between,” Lang Lang says. “I suffered a lot as a teenager. I had no concerts to play at, so I’m always very grateful for performance opportunities. I came to Hong Kong when I was just 15 years old, and as a young artist at that time I needed a stage to perform on. That’s something the audience can help with.

“This city is a great place for people who are starting to develop their careers, but as I always say, classical music needs more attention from the wider world. So when I come here, this is something I want to speak for: if you’re reading this article and have a chance, attend more concerts by young artists and show your support.”

Source: Prestige Online

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