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Haverford students share their love of classical music with senior living community

Haverford students share their love of classical music with senior living community
 

SIOUX CITY --  Walking with confidence into a performance space at Whispering Creek Senior Living, James Gates sat behind the keys of a piano.

The 16-year-old Moville, Iowa native then proceeded to play Mozart's "Sonata in A Minor" to an appreciative audience made up of staff and residents at the retirement community, 2609 Nicklaus Dr.

"I perform Mozart as a way to warm up for a performance," Gates said as he kicked off a 30-minute concert that would also include musical works by Frederic Chopin and Felix Mendelsohn.

If it seems unusual for an eleventh-grade student to effortlessly play a complex piece by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as a "warmup" exercise, then Gates must be a very unusual kid.

A pianist since age 4, Gates has been known to practice music up to four hours a day, according to his mom Liang Gates.

"When James was 1 year old, I placed medical equipment, athletic balls and a toy keyboard in front of him," she said. "James immediately went for the keyboard."

Since then Gates has had private lessons with Sioux City Symphony Orchestra executive director Richard Steinbach, performed at New York's Carnegie Hall, and is currently a student at The Haverford School, a prestigious prep school located in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pa.

Each time he returns to Northwest Iowa, he will perform concerts at a handful of retirement communities.

"James was giving a concert at a retirement home in Moville when he met a 100-year-old woman who was celebrating her birthday," Liang Gates explained. "The woman remembered James had performed for the years earlier. 'You were so little the last time you were here,' the lady said. 'You are now such a nice young man.'"

"It meant so much to me that the woman remembered my earlier concert," James Gates said. "That makes me want to do more and more concerts."

Which may be tough since there are other activities occupying his time.

That includes pole vaulting, a sport which earned him the friendship of Sandi Morris, a USA silver medalist from the 2016 Summer Olympics.

"James and Sandi follow each other on social media and have become friends," Liang Gates said.

Indeed, Gates got involved with track and field because it provided him a more physic outlet than music ever could.

"I like pole vaulting a lot," he said. "When I pole vault, it feels like I'm flying in mid-air."

Yet music will always be a big focus in Gates' life. That's why he's helping his 11-year-old brother Noah play the violin.

"Noah has been playing violin since he was six years old," Gates said. "Now, hw and I will be able to perform a piano and violin duet with 'Concerto No. 5 in D Major.'"

As Noah Gates takes his place next to his older brother, Gates couldn't help but smile.

Gates knows how impact music has been to his life. He is now sharing music with everyone he meets.

"When I was younger, I'd play my music at retirement communities and loved it," he said.

Unfortunately, Gates couldn't play many live concerts during the height of COVID-19. He then started posting his performances on social media.

With COVID increasingly on the wane, he's back to playing classical music.

"I have a good time performing," he said. "I want to be able to perform it for others."

Read more at Sioux City Journal >