Music is Qian’s life. A professional concert pianist and survivor of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Qian studied piano at Beijing’s premier musical college in the 1970s, despite losing his eyesight at age 13. Playing by feel and by ear, Qian is a prodigy, as he cannot read the notes written on the page. His immense talent helped him qualify for the Royal National College for the Blind in England, where he received a full scholarship in the 1981 to continue his musical training. Once out of China, Qian never went back. After he graduated, Qian settled in Europe and traveled around playing in hotels and in smaller venues until 1998, when he immigrated to the United States.
But life in America was not as forgiving as life in Europe, and Qian struggled to keep himself financially sound as he began to struggle with mental illness. Soon Qian lost almost everything. Now he relies on disability payments, and lives in a small, subsidized apartment without a piano. His radio is his solace, to listen to music.
Qian relies on grants from Byrd Barr Place to keep his heat turned on, as he has had it shutoff twice in 2013 for past due bills. Living on $710 a month, it is hard for Qian to get caught up on his past due bills, until Byrd Barr Place’s Bridge the Gap campaign stepped in with a pledge of $300 to help pay down the balance. Now Qian can start over with a clean slate and hopes for better fortune in 2014. He also has hopes of a new surgery that might restore some of his vision with advanced stem cell treatment, making 2014 a very auspicious year for Qian.
Qian was touched by the Bridge the Gap campaign of anonymous donors to help those less fortunate. As his way of giving back and giving thanks, Qian offered to play music for any donors as an expression of his gratitude.