Some people spend their entire lives dreaming of the chance to perform at the famous Carnegie Hall.
The lights. The sights. The history. The audience roaring with applause. If you get the chance to play there, you know you're doing it right.
Pianist Sriram Narayanan might as well receive a frequent performer card for his time spent on stage there.
Sriram has dazzled audiences at Carnegie Hall not once, not twice, but THREE times. Did I mention he's only 13 years old?
That's quite an accomplishment for anyone, let alone someone who's barely considered a teenager. But Sriram thrives under the pressure. For a child with other challenges, music has been an incredible outlet for him.
"He doesn't get nervous," said his piano teacher, Tatyana Dudochkin of the New England Conservatory. "He enjoys performing so much for an audience and sharing his joy. He absolutely loves when people clap and cheer for him."
And cheer for him they do.
Sriram's success is a testament to the power of patience and encouragement — especially with kids.
Learning is not a one-size-fits-all type of deal for many children, including Sriram. As a toddler, Sriram was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder (APD) — a condition an estimated 5-7% of children live with today. APD can make it difficult to recognize sounds in words, understand the messages of others, remember information presented verbally, and localize sounds, among other things.
That means for people living with APD, it can take a little bit more time to figure out directions, complete a homework assignment, or memorize a new song on the piano. But just as we all learn differently, those with APD do too, and patience and understanding from others helps to play a big role in their development.
It's what helped Sriram find his own path.
"I just started to work with him and it was difficult," said his teacher Tatyana, "but he loved learning the music I played for him and he was very passionate about it. When I pushed him to do even more, he did it, and it helped to build a lot of confidence."
Sriram found an area where he shines — and that has helped him in every aspect of his life.
When Sriram was encouraged to start doing competitions, it took him to a whole new level. In addition to the competitions that have landed him at Carnegie Hall, he has won many others, including receiving honorable mention as the youngest contestant of the 2016 "Newton Has Talent."
Between his family, his music mentors, his school Learning Prep, and others, he knows he has a community of support behind him in his journey.
It's important for children to be able to explore various hobbies and interests while they're young. Every kid is different — living with APD or not — and you never know what will stick.
When Sriram was 4, his mom, Sunanda gave him a keyboard that was destined for the trash. She thought it would keep him occupied for a while. What she didn't realize was the path it would lead him on.
"All of a sudden he was teaching himself songs from 'The Sound of Music' by ear," she said.
Fast forward nine years later, he's showing us all what he can do from the big bright stage.
As Sunanda says, "It is amazing to see him be social and to show off his talent. Music is going to be a very integrated part of his life."