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The Royal Conservatory's Koerner Concert Hall is described as "the jewel in the crown of Toronto's Cultural Renaissance."

Eduard Hueber

A Chinese piano superstar's educational foundation has launched a new partnership with a Canadian institution – beginning at a U.S. inner-city school. The Lang Lang International Music Foundation has selected the Royal Conservatory of Music's curriculum to be the basis of its Keys of Inspiration program. The program partners with schools in underprivileged areas, providing teaching materials and piano labs for students between Grades 4 and 8 for three years.

While an official launch is in the works for this spring, the collaboration actually began in the fall, when about 200 students at a public school in the Harlem neighbourhood of New York began receiving lessons in new piano labs using the RCM system of curriculum. They are now preparing for their exams in June.

"The kids are really excited," says Peter Simon, RCM president and CEO. "A lot of them … asked for pianos for Christmas."

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Simon has been working with Lang Lang Foundation executive director Leszek Lukas Barwinski on the partnership, which will see the foundation use the RCM system of curriculum and assessment at participating schools – which Simon hopes will increase to as many as 100 in the United States, and perhaps expand to China. Lang's foundation aims to "inspire the next generation of classical-music lovers and performers," and Simon says the pianist is the right person to do that.

"Lang Lang is without question the leading figure in the classical piano world," Simon says. "He's an inspirational figure for all these young people."

In a statement, Lang called the RCM "the ideal partner" for the program. "The Royal Conservatory's structured system of curriculum and assessment is truly exceptional and fosters participation in music and creative expression. This curriculum will play an invaluable role in igniting a passion for music in our students."

Further demonstrating his commitment to education, Lang was in Vancouver last week and, ahead of a sold-out performance at the Orpheum Theatre on Wednesday night, he scheduled an open master class and performance, called 101 Pianists, with 100 students from the VSO School of Music – along with music director Bramwell Tovey.

This week, Lang will be in Las Vegas for the Music Teachers National Association conference, where he will present an advanced piano master class, and will meet with Simon to discuss this partnership.

"What I find resonant for me is the things that they [at the foundation] say about music are so consistent with what we [at the RCM] say," Simon says. "They operate under the same conviction: that music's the universal language and it opens opportunities for kids for communication, acceptance, understanding. Plus it gives them goals. So all of these things are entirely consistent with what we believe in."

Editor's note: The original version of this article incorrectly stated Lang was in Vancouver "this week" and that he would be in Las Vegas "next week."  This version has been correction.

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