Promising piano player who spent summer at Brevard Music Center isn't defined by blindness
Often, our biggest limitations are the ones we put on ourselves. David Lai, a talented young pianist spent the summer learning at Brevard Music Center. While his talent is front and center, what makes him even more inspiring is that he is blind.
At 22, Lai has a compelling message to go with his magnificent talent.
"Find your interest, your passion in life. And to never give up and to hold onto your dreams and never give up," he said.
Lai wants his audience to feel that, too.
"Let them have a memorable experience. Live the moment and enjoy it," Lai said, describing his approach to playing.
His instrument commands the stage -- 88 keys with seemingly endless possibilities.
"I thought it was a singing giant," he said, recalling how imposing the piano was to him at age 4. "I just loved the sound of the piano when I first touched it."
We found Lai in classic form in Brevard, playing Chopin's third sonata.
"Very luscious music and very passionate," the rising senior at Central Conservatory of Music in China said. "It's a first for me to study with American professors and doing it all in English."
Lai combines brilliant technique with a special knack for conveying the emotion of the music.
The piano has helped him break through barriers since was a child.
"I do play by ear, that's where I get my music mainly," he said. "I just feel my way around the keyboard."
Lai was born about 10 weeks premature and weighed less than three pounds. Doctors gave him oxygen therapy.
"Because my lungs were underdeveloped, I could not breathe on my own. So, they gave me oxygen, which damaged my eyesight, and I have never seen the world since," he said.
That didn't stop Lai from pursuing a passion.
"Be faithful to the art and share music with the people," Lai said.
Growing up, movies like "The Sound of Music" and "Beauty and the Beast" spoke to him.
"Good films would often have good music," he said. "Anything from musicals to 80s and 90s musicals in the Disney renaissance, I just take these as English learning materials to begin with."
Over the years, he learned from renowned Chinese pianists before coming to Brevard.
"I just love being here to learn more about music," Lai said.
With a positive mindset, he can see the beauty of a piano with a view.
"The sounds of nature would sometimes blend in with the music because it's open air," he said. "That is really special."
Maybe that is what a keen sense of perspective looks like.