By Stan Friedman
NORTHBROOK, IL (August 20, 2013) — Fourteen-year-old Roger Shen knew he couldn’t sponsor a child through Covenant Kids Congo (CKC), but he wanted to do what he could. So the young pianist, whose credits include two solo concerts at Carnegie Hall, performed at Northbrook Covenant Church on Sunday night to raise funds for the initiative.
The program featured pieces by Chopin, Mozart, Schubert, Prokofiev, Bach, Beethoven, Detilleux, and Liszt. “It was spectacular,” said Pastor Tom Beckstrom. “It was unbelievable, remarkable.”
In the past three years, Roger has won many junior first-place awards in local, national, and international competitions, including the 2012 Music Teachers National Association Illinois junior competition; the Bradshaw & Buono International Competition; the Aloha International Piano Competition in Honolulu, Hawaii; the American Fine Arts Festival; and the Chicago Steinway Young Artist Competition. He has also been awarded prizes from the Society of American Musicians and the Walgreens National Concerto Competition.
To watch a video of Shen performing with the Midwest Young Artists Symphony, click here.
Beckstrom said the teenager’s faith is as strong as his musical giftedness. “During intermission, he went into the prayer room and asked me to come with him and pray for him as he got ready for the second half of the concert.”
Shen had been baptized the morning of the concert. “That made Sunday night all the more special for me,” said Beckstrom.
Still, Beckstrom was surprised when Shen approached him with the idea of performing the benefit concert. “He came to me two weeks ago and said, ‘I have received so much and I want to give something back.’ ”
Shen had been considering the needs in Africa since learning of them in his classes at Northbrook Junior High. He didn’t know at the time how he might respond.
“Ever since I was a kid, my mother said I should be careful about giving to people asking for funds,” Shen said. He was inspired to support CKC after attending the church’s Hope Sunday celebration in March.
During the celebration, he learned how the partnership between the Evangelical Covenant Church and World Vision will impact an entire community in Congo’s Equateur Province, one of the poorest places in the world.
So far, $1,000 has been donated in response to the concert, and more continues to come in, said Beckstrom.
Reesheda Washington, project leader and associate director of mission mobilization and connection for the Department of World Mission, said she was amazed after learning about the concert. “This young man is a testament to what God does when we commit ourselves to serve and use the gifts that God has given us to build the kingdom.”
Shen will attend Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, starting in September.
Covenanters have sponsored 6,000 children since the initiative was announced last year.