Performer Spotlight: 15-Year-Old Pianist Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner

On Sunday, October 2 we’re taping a radio show in Boston at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall. Among the diverse group of performers is 15-year-old pianist Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner, a musician with some very cool, international experiences under his belt. You can catch his interview with host Christopher O’Riley when the show airs November 28), but keep reading to get a preview! 

In 2010 thirteen-year-old pianist Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner arrived in Baghdad wearing a vest and helmet. He was submitted to a search, and then took the stage to perform with the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra on a beat-up piano that “looked like it had been in the war” itself.

“It’s amazing because when you see the New York Philharmonic perform, or the Los Angeles Philharmonic, they practice; they rehearse,” recalls Llewellyn. “These guys have to put their instruments on a dirt ground and watch them be searched by dogs, and they have to be searched themselves.” Llewellyn was the first American to perform with the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra and his rendition of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” brought the Iraqi audience to their feet.

“This particular experience was a dream come true. To be able to work with people on projects like that is something that I’ve always wanted to do.”

Check out Llewellyn’s interview with CNN’s ‘Connect the World’ to hear more about his experience in Iraq.

Llewellyn with President and First Lady Obama in 2009

Aside from music, Llewellyn also has a passion for politics. His current role models include Fareed Zakaria and Stephen Colbert, and he enjoys engaging in political debates with his friends at Juilliard, where he studies. But it’s not just an interest in politics – Llewellyn really cares about the world we live in.

“Along the way there have been certain moments and certain people, they really inspired me to focus on the detail and minutia and create the detail as much as possible,” said Llewellyn. “I was also inspired by the people that were able to nurture Israelis and Palestinians to work together; these people want peace.”

Iraq was far from Llewellyn’s first international performance. A year earlier, he traveled to Rwanda to play a private concert for President Paul Kagame and his family. Llewellyn says that since the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s, “Kagame has done an excellent job at rebuilding [the country] politically, economically, and everything.” Llewellyn also got to play foosball with President Kagame’s son.

In 2009, Llewellyn performed in front of President Obama and the First Lady, an honor for this musician who counts Obama as one of his heroes.

“Obama tries to make this country and the world become a better place,” said Llewellyn. “The Obamas struck me as being remarkably warm and generally generous. They were really outgoing and a delight to talk to.”

Despite his worldly experiences, Llewellyn is still a proud New Yorker who enjoys running in Central Park and seeing the Statue of Liberty. We are looking forward to having him on the show this Sunday!

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