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A series of conversations with the Cliburn competitors
(Pronounced Gia Yûahn)
Born: Changchun, China
Where he lives: New York City
Second home: Yuan moved to Fort Worth from China at age 18 to attend Texas Christian University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in music. He lived in Fort Worth from 2004 to 2009, before moving to New York to study at Juilliard. He returns to Fort Worth once or twice a year.
What he misses about the Fort: Driving on open road and eating good barbecue, both of which are difficult to do in New York, he says.
First piano: Yuan's parents scrounged and borrowed every cent they could to buy him an old, secondhand Yamaha piano with a few broken keys when he was 6 years old. When he arrived at TCU and heard one there, he said to himself, "Wow, that is what the piano is supposed to sound like."
How he unwinds: Yuan heads to the soccer field or kitchen, where he is known to whip up his rendition of Texas barbecue for friends at Juilliard. "If I'm not a pianist," he says, "I think I would be a chef."
While in Fort Worth for the competition, he plans to: Attend a service at Glory Chinese Baptist Church, where he was baptized, visit the zoo and take a long drive. "I just want to get on I-30 and drive all day," he says.
On movies: In high school, he studied music and film and considered becoming a movie director. He has watched Forrest Gump, his favorite film, more times than he can count, he says.
What strikes him about the States: The complete kindness of strangers, he says. His pastor in Fort Worth is like a second father, and a sponsor at a competition in Tulsa, Okla., became an honorary grandfather. "Everywhere I turn, people are so willing to help here."
Cliburn goals: "When I enter a competition, I never think competitive thoughts," Yuan says. "I just want to play my best and make the audience happy. It is about the music."
-- Sarah Bahari