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Student stories - Music

Ashani Waidyatillake

To play alongside her musical idol, in front of thousands of people, is an experience Ashani Waidyatillake​ will never forget.

11-year-old, Ashani won the opportunity to perform with world-acclaimed Chinese pianist Lang Lang after winning the junior class of the 2016 New Zealand Youth Piano Competition.

The win not only entitled her to play a duet alongside Lang Lang at the Civic Theatre in Auckland, but to also attend a piano master class.

To win the coveted performance Ashani came up against 120 other entrants and had to play two pieces; one of her choice, and an excerpt from Franz Schubert’s Marche Militaires​, the duet composition for the concert.

“I had heard it before but never played it,” she says.

“It was quite an easy piece in terms of playing the notes, but it is hard to play the song well and make it meaningful.”

Ashani’s mother Bobbie Wong​ says she taught her daughter to find meaning in songs by linking them to a recent news item.

“The most recent example was the two Hong Kong firemen that sacrificed their lives. She played Tchaikovsky’s Romance, which really made me cry. It even made my mother cry,” Wong says.

Ashani says the best thing about playing alongside her hero was feeling the transformative power of his music.

“Lang Lang really made me consolidate the meaning of piano performing: that the art of piano playing is not just playing the notes that the composer wrote, it’s trying to deliver your interpretation or story that you created for that piece, to the audience,” she says.

Ashani dreams of becoming a neurologist and a musician, so she can study how music affects the brain.