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From The Top
Teenage Pianist with International Experience Comes to Boston
Teenage Pianist with International Experience Comes to Boston Llewellyn with President and First Lady Obama
15-year-old Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner has performed for Rwandan President Paul Kagame, President Obama, and alongside Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra. This weekend he comes to Boston for a radio show taping of NPR's From the Top. Thirteen-year-old pianist Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner arrived in Baghdad in 2010 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."

Today, Llewellyn is a well-traveled 15-year-old with a secondary passion for politics. His current role models include Fareed Zakaria and Stephen Colbert, and he frequently engages in political debates with his friends at The Juilliard School in New York City, where he studies. But it's not just an interest in politics Llewellyn professes that he 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 really 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. He will perform on a broadcast recording of NPR's From the Top on October 2, 2011 in Boston, MA. The episode will air nationally the week of November 28, 2011.