Marc Yu, a 9-year-old piano prodigy from Pasadena, Calif., recently played at a benefit for victims of the earthquake in Sichuan, China. And he didn't play "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." He played a piece that Chopin wrote for victims of the Polish-Russian war, the composer's "Nocturne in C Minor."
"My legs are long enough for the pedal, but still my legs aren't straight," Marc says. "I sometimes have to sit close to the piano or stretch my legs." He says his left hand can reach an octave, but his right hand isn't quite there yet.
Marc says he can only vaguely recall beginning to play the piano. He says his mother has told him over and over that he was 2. He does remember his recital debut, when he was 3. He played a G major sonatina by Beethoven.
That same year, he asked his mom if he could become a pianist. These days, he practices up to eight hours a day, depending on his schedule and his mood. "Practice makes perfect," he says. "You don't want a Beethoven piece to sound like something else. That's disrespectful to the composer."
Marc's days are different from those of other 9-year-olds. He travels the world playing the piano, and has met celebrities and dignitaries such as Condoleezza Rice, herself a pianist. "I think other kids are missing out, because they're confined with school five days a week," says Marc, who is home-schooled.
Marc will perform with his idol, the Chinese superstar Lang Lang, in London at the end of August. They will play a piece for four hands by Schubert.