Pianist Lang Lang Talks Music, Philanthropy and His Love for Chicago

On Saturday, May 9, Lang Lang will perform his only Chicago recital of 2015 at Lyric’s Civic Opera house.

Although I’d long been his fan, I didn’t meet Lang Lang until May 2013, when he received the Dushkin Award at the Music Institute of Chicago gala that I co-chaired. He won my heart then because of the way he treated my mother and the way he took so seriously his ability to pay it forward that he started a foundation engaged in community outreach programs in Chicago and around the world when he was only 26.

As his friend, fan and a champion of the Lang Lang Foundation, I’m delighted to offer this Q&A with him.

Welcome back to Chicago. We’re so proud of our Lang Lang heritage—helping the rest of the world discover your spectacular talents at your 1999 Ravinia gala performance when you were only 17.

Make It Better:  Could you please tell us what you like best about Chicago?

Chicago truly is a special city for me. My career started here, as you said. And I love Chicago personally too. It is artistically so active, with wonderful theaters, museums, concert halls—all with great atmosphere. And, so many people in Chicago love classical music, which I am very happy to see.

Make It Better: Your “crossover” performances—playing non-classical music with other types of artists and performing at amazing venues like the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing—surely help grow awareness of and new audience for the classical music you love. Could you please tell us your perspective on this?

One of my goals is to enlarge the classical music audience. Young people today are surrounded by popular culture. But I know that when they experience classical music, they will enjoy it very much too. I like giving piano performances to young people to help them learn about classical music.

But also, I have many friends in different artistic areas. I enjoy working with them.

Make It Better: Your foundation has developed several youth programs around the world to inspire and motivate the next generation of classical music performers, as well as grow new audiences. You’ve developed a unique program with the Midwest Young Artists (MYA). Could you please tell us about it?

It is a program to which I attach great importance. I particularly love to find young talents at MYA and help them artistically. There are a large number of young people here who play the piano and have great potential to become brilliant pianists.

Make It Better:  At Make It Better, we believe that collaboration and developing appreciation of differences is the way forward for everyone—in music and in life. You seem to be a natural collaborator too. What collaborations would you love to do that you haven’t been able to do yet?

I would love to publicize the art of classical music and piano performance as much as I can, and I’d like to find more ways for music to enrich young people’s life. I believe music education is particularly important, so I am running more educational projects recently. These activities need many other collaborators too. 

Make It Better:  Please tell us about your youth outreach programs.  We welcome information that proves the programs are impactful and scalable, so as to encourage others to support this work too.

The Foundation aims to find great young talents around the world, and support them through education and career opportunities. We have done many activities in North America, Asia and Europe. Some of our young artists have played at famous concert halls like Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Disney Concert Hall. We welcome more collaborators from education and industry to help with this, too.

Watch the video below to learn more about the Lang Lang International Music Foundation:

Don’t miss Lang Lang’s one-time Chicago performance on Saturday, May 9, at the Lyric Opera. Watch the video below to learn more about this “recital of a lifetime.” Buy your tickets now!

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