The Chinese superstar pianist Lang Lang is admired all over the world for his stunning virtuoso performances.
He is undoubtably one of the great talents of our generation, but his talent came at a great price. In this Telegraph article he tells how his demanding father almost pushed him to suicide.
“Parents need to stop being so pushy”, he says, “or their children will fail at the piano. And teachers need to stop being so strict. Some teachers are very narrow-minded and just say, ‘Do this! Do that!’ Like marching in a police drill. You cannot teach kids in that way, you know?”
He considers for a moment. “You can be strict, no problem, but you cannot be lacking in sensitivity for children’s imagination and feelings. It is impossible. He or she is not you. You need to realise. That is the failure of teachers. They believe there is one way to play this piece and if you do it differently it is against the law.”
Teachers need to engage with the emotions and individual character of each child, he says. “Yeah, because we are all human beings. No one is a machine. Especially when you are a kid, you are so sensitive. So you need to encourage them rather than drag them, saying, ‘You must do this or I kill you.’” He corrects himself. “Not I kill you. I fire you.” He means that a teacher will refuse to have them as a pupil.
That happened to him once, unbelievably. But what if the child is being forced to have piano lessons and absolutely hates it? “I think parents have a strong role. Sometimes maybe the reason why the kid hates the lessons is that the parents don’t know how to inspire the kid. I find very often the parents – particularly Asian parents, but I do meet others – are so pushy. They are so eager to see the result, to hear the result, and the kid sometimes cannot deliver it. The parents say, ‘I spent money for you to take piano lessons, I am expecting you to play a recital.’ ”