Boy plays piano to help children around the world


OAKLAND TRIBUNE: January 6, 2011

For many kids, playing the piano is a rite of passage that ranks somewhere between breaking a bone and getting braces. But for 13-year-old Omar Abdul-Rahim, the piano holds the key to helping other children.

On Sunday, this eighth-grader at Corpus Christi School in Piedmont will play a benefit concert for the George Mark Children’s House in San Leandro, a hospice for terminally ill children. It’s his second fundraising performance in a year, and it underscores how even a child can make an important contribution in the world.

Omar’s epiphany came after hearing a speaker in church make a plea for donations for children living in the slums of Calcutta. After Mass, he went up to the representative and said, “I don’t have any money, but I can play the piano.”

With help from his family, he put together a solo classical concert that raised $2,200 for Empower the Children, and was stunned when he heard it bought new outfits for 450 desperately poor children.

“When he opened the letter and read it, he said, ‘Wow! I can’t believe I did this,’ ” says his mother, Sophia Bucheli.

Omar started playing the piano when he was 6 years old, at the urging of his parents. “My mom and dad introduced it to me, and I said, ‘OK — that’s cool.'” That kind of cooperative spirit has helped make him the ideal piano student for teacher Rebecca Trujillo, who is still his instructor today. It’s also given him the courage to play in a room full of strangers, not an easy task for a young teen.

But despite Omar’s acclaim as an artist and a budding philanthropist, he’s really still just a normal kid, who plays Club Lacrosse and likes to hang out with his friends. And while he’s pretty good about practicing the piano, there are times when his parents have to prod him a little — just like any other busy youngster.

He manages to find the time to give his brothers a few pointers. Six-year-old Adam is just starting the piano and 10-year-old Alec is already very good, according to Omar.

As for playing the piano professionally some day, Omar says there are too many other things he’d rather do. He sees himself as a businessman — or maybe an engineer.

The possibilities are endless when you aim high. Just ask his mom, who credits that letter from the kids in Calcutta for Omar’s inspiration.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever witnessed the direct impact of giving money,” she says. “We’re here to give. And Omar buys into it.”

Omar’s benefit concert for the George Mark Children’s House is at 2 p.m. Sunday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 114 Montecito Ave. in Oakland. Suggested donation is $20.

 

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