Bay Area Proud

12-Year-Old Piano Prodigy Plays for Neighborhood Seniors

'I enjoy making people happy,' Christopher Nguyen said

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Every other Friday at Waters Edge Lodge in Alameda, dinner is followed by a special treat.

It's not a dessert for the residents of the assisted living facility, but it is something sweet: a 12-year-old prodigy, Christopher Nguyen, on the piano.

"I enjoy making people happy," Nguyen said. "I enjoy putting a smile on people's faces."

Nguyen, whose story is featured in the book, "Unselfish Kids," has been volunteering to come and play at the lodge almost every week since he was 6 years old.

Nguyen's parents say they first noticed his aptitude for music the year before when, though having no musical training, he would call out what notes were coming out of the car radio. Nguyen's parents soon sat him down in front of a piano.

"Yes, it was really amazing," Nguyen's mother, Maggie Hoang said. "He was only 5 1/2, a little tiny, tiny little boy with tiny fingers. He was able to pick up music really quickly."

It was his parents who then suggested Nguyen head over to the Lodge to play for the residents. It was a huge hit with the seniors and the staff.

"He's a genius on the piano, he's like a mini-Mozart," David Ballerini, Director of Marketing for AEC Living said. "He shreds."

Nguyen arrives with no particular playlist in mind, just choosing songs as he goes, drawing from the hundreds of classical tunes he has learned by heart.

"I gage my audience and then I just decide what to play next based on their mood. I look at their expressions," Nguyen said.

Nguyen's playing often elicits smiles from the residents but sometimes tears as well.

Sill, it turns out that it's not just the audience that gets something from these volunteer concerts. Nguyen admits to being a little awkward when it comes to interacting with other people. Communicating with music, though, comes easily to him.

"Different instances, such as school, it's hard for me to present in front of the class," Nguyen said. "Here, it's comfortable for me to play piano."

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