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Connect the World

Interview with Llewellyn Sanchez Werner

Aired May 31, 2010 - 16:50   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, ANCHOR (voice-over): Throughout history, music has been used as a tool to bring people together. Famed conductor, Daniel Barenboim addressed the Mid East conflict by creating a youth orchestra comprised of Arab and Jewish musicians.

And in 2008, the New York Philharmonic broke through barriers by performing in notoriously cut off North Korea. Now, a 13-year-old prodigy from Los Angeles has built a musical bridge to Baghdad. Piano player, Llewellyn Sanchez Werner usually brought an Iraqi audience to their feet after performing with the National Symphony in the capital.

Werner who's started playing at the age of 2 composed his first piece at aged 5 and he's currently working on a second degree from the Juilliard School of Music. Despite initial fears, he hopes the Iraqi concert would reinvigorate musical institutions in the war-torn country where the National Orchestra collapsed after the 2003 U.S. led invasion.

Taking on the world with talent and courage, is your connector of the day.


ANDERSON: And I caught him while he was in New York and again, I'll ask you what it was like performing in Baghdad?

LLEWELLYN SANCHEZ WERNER, MUSICIAN: It was an amazing experience and definitely something that you'll remember for the rest of your life. I felt so honored to be able to go there and meet with (Karim Wasfi) and the orchestra, the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra and to just play music with them. Do what we do and do what we love.

I admire greatly the fact that they, against all odds, are playing music in Iraq even with all the threats and you know, they're risking their lives, but they're doing it and they're good at it and they're all geniuses, warm and welcoming and it's incredible. And it was just amazing. It's was beyond amazing.

ANDERSON: Good stuff. We've got - a question - a number of questions from the viewers for you today. They're fascinated by what you've done. Kip has written to us. He says, were you ever worried about being in Baghdad?

WEREN: Well, here's the thing. On the way there, I was a little bit concerned. Yes, before, you're excited about going just as you're about to arrive though, maybe, you get a little bit nervous. Because when - you just see in the news that it is a war zone and you have to respect the fact the defenders.

But when I got there, everybody was so warm, so welcoming and so kind and I realized that there's actually so much more to the country (inaudible) and just - in terms of what everybody does and says. So then the fear completely went away and I just went there and had a good time.

ANDERSON: It's good stuff, but Jurgen says, what is your opinion of the situation in Iraq?

WEREN: Basically, here's the thing. Music is something - you know, it's the air breath. It's the beat that keeps us going everyday and for the - our entire lives and it is something that we can just use to connect. And when I went over to Iraq, I was playing with them and in addition to the fact that it was music, we were doing a project. We were working together. We were eating. We were talking. We were discussing and you know, before what things we should with the (tempi), what end?

We just discuss everything and just the fact of doing that playing music and using that, I think it has (inaudible) transcend boundaries and just connect cultures and pretty much everything. So that's really the aim of what we were trying to do over there.

ANDERSON: You're not the first to have done this, but this is really inspiring stuff and let's hope you continue. Have you got ideas about getting elsewhere?

WEREN: Most definitely. I actually have already gone to Rwanda and I met with the president and with his family and we went and played for several churches and several schools and key foundations, and went and met with the kids, met with people. I'll be going back there soon.

I'm also going to be playing at the 50th Anniversary of the United Farm Workers founded by Cesar Chavez in the Kennedy Center next year. But doing something like that has been my dream. You know, music has been a passion of mine, but even though I love it on my entire life especially piano and composition, which is what I do.

I have always wanted to use it for something bigger, something to help the world and to contribute to - what we already are doing in making the world a better place.

ANDERSON: Desmond is off the very basic, but a good question. I'm sure one that everybody want you to answer too, who were your favorite composers?

WEREN: Favorite composers. That's a good question. I have to say though that I pretty much like either whoever I'm playing or performing or learning at the moment just because I like the true pieces that I love and connect with. But I do favor the romantic periods (inaudible) or anything contemporary. So, you know, (Prokofiev) or actually my teacher, Lowell Liebermann who is with an amazing music.

Actually one nice thing about going to Iraq was I also heard a little bit of their style, of Iraqi music and I think it's important to also realize that there are several different kinds of music all around the world.

ANDERSON: Are you a Lady Gaga fan?

WEREN: Well, maybe, I don't have too much Lady Gaga on my iPod I must admit, but I do have a lot of bands.

ANDERSON: Well, of course, indeed. Nicole asked if you could only listen to one song or one piece of music for the rest of your life, what would it be?

WEREN: That would be hell, yes, the problem is this. One song for the entire rest of my life would be the personification of hell because the point of music is to be able to listen to a variety to compare and contrast. I think it is pretty much impossible for me to choose one song, but maybe if I just had a playlist of songs that never ended, I could go with that.

ANDERSON: When then a 13-years-old feels inadequate? I did. Tomorrow's connector of the day, the high profile press secretary that Britain has ever seen or is likely to see. He was former Prime Minister Tony Blair's right hand man and his coming campaign led the Labour Party to landslide election win in 1997 and again, in 2001.

What would you like to ask, Alastair Campbell? He'll be in the hot seat here on "Connect The World." So send us your questions, you're part of the show at that's where you can post your questions. (Inaudible) of them to Alastair tomorrow. Tonight, we will be right back.