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Brookline pianist reaches out through music

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Brookline pianist Amir Siraj.Cliburn

Name: Amir Siraj

Age: 15

Hometown: Brookline

Think of: An innovative modern-day teenage Franz Liszt. "[Liszt is] considered one of the first celebrity superstars in music in Europe, and he just had a really special way of communicating with people through music, and I would aspire to be able to achieve that as well."

What caught our eye: Siraj learned in middle school that 10 percent of Brookline families go hungry, and he has "always wanted to do something about that." Siraj worked with NPR's "From the Top" and nonprofit Music for Food to organize a Jan. 25 benefit concert at the New England Conservatory, with all proceeds to benefit Brookline Food Pantry.


Light bulb moment: "Last year, I performed in the Chapel of Mass. General Hospital, and my music was simultaneously broadcast to, I think, 1,500 patient rooms. I couldn't see the patients' faces, but I felt a visceral connection to each and every one of them through the music, and that experience was deeply moving for me."

Biggest thrill: "Being selected as one of the 24 participants from around the world for the inaugural Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition and Festival," Siraj said. The 2015 event was "part competition, part festival," and featured a chamber-music performance by Siraj with members of the Fort Worth Symphony.

Inspired by: "As an arts leader with "From the Top's" CDAL (Center for Development of Arts Leaders), as I've been a member all throughout high school, I found my experiences performing outside of the concert hall really rewarding. Being able to see and hear my audience's reaction during the performance is really inspiring and fulfilling."

Aspires to: "I think long-term, one thing's for sure, and that's that music will continue to play a central role in my life. But also, kind of generally, I'd love to explore even more ways in which music can flourish as a compelling tool for communication. Ways it can improve quality of life or bridge generational gaps or engender political diplomacy, because I think there is a lot of untapped power in music that's waiting to be unleashed."


For good luck: "I don't believe in luck. I guess I just try to prepare well. However, I do usually eat a banana on the day of a performance."

What people should know: "I try to apply the lessons I learn in music to other areas of my life. For example, I apply the creative aspect of music to the projects of the innovation club that I founded at my school. In fact, we've recently received the Excite Award from the Lemelson-MIT Foundation," Amir said. "But I've also — I think — harnessed the discipline and the rigor that I've learned through piano practice, to drive my athletic training. I do 6-day-per-week training as the third-year member of the men's varsity crew team at community rowing."

Coming soon: The Jan. 25 concert will take place at New England Conservatory's Brown Hall at 7 p.m. and will feature strings from the Omer Quartet, Music for Food's 2016 Fellows. A suggested donation of $25 for adults and $10 for students and children is encouraged.

Link: www.amirsiraj.com

Interview was condensed and edited. Emily Wright can be reached at emily.rose.sophia@gmail.com