There are many ways to tell a story. There are even more ways to interpret its meaning. Whether words are spoken or written, no two people hear or see a story exactly the same way.
Sometimes not a single word is needed to appreciate what a storyteller is trying to convey. Sometimes the "universal language of music" that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow alluded to can tell a story that reaches farther than the ears.
"A Heart Made Whole: A Musical Journey of Adversity, Faith and Resilience" will be presented by world-renowned pianist Alec Chien at 7 p.m. today at the Meadville Area Senior High School auditorium, 930 N. Main St. The event is free and open to the public.
Chien received his bachelor's, master's and doctoral of musical arts degrees from the Juilliard School of Music. He has performed in solo and chamber recitals and as a soloist with orchestras in countries on four continents, including Australia, Austria, China, Greece, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Poland, Spain and Taiwan.
He retired from Allegheny College in 2016 as a professor of music and artist in residence.
He was one of 25 Steinway artists who performed at the Gala Concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City to celebrate the piano company's 135th anniversary as well as its 500,000th piano. A special Steinway piano is being brought to Meadville for tonight's concert, according to Chien.
The concert isn't so much about what happens musically when a world-renowned pianist places his hands on the keys of the world's finest piano. It's about what happens emotionally for both the performer and the listener.
"I was asked to play and share my life journey," Chien said. "It's my story. I take the audience from birth to now." That journey includes a faith component, he said.
"Not a lot of people know that I'm really quite introverted," Chien said. "Unless there's a platform, I don't pave my way. Without a platform, I tend to withdraw and suppress my feelings."
The platform in this case focuses on relationships nurturing resilience in the midst of adversity, according to Chien.
"The inner struggle I've had all my life lends itself to that same sentiment," he said.
The program includes pieces that portray Chien's medical and musical history, his musical and mentoring journey and self-discovery.
The event came together through the efforts of multiple groups in the community that share a common goal of forming relationships and overcoming trauma. "Collaboration has power," Chien said in reference to the group effort.
The event's contributors include the Crawford County System of Care partnership, Courageous Conversations, Crawford County Overdose Prevention Coalition, Crawford County Suicide Task Force, Crawford County Drug & Alcohol Executive Commission, Meadvillecalendar.com, Thankful Thursdays, Meadville Neighborhood Center, Meadville Area Ministerial Association and Not One More of Northwestern Pennsylvania.
Not One More/NWPA is an advocacy group that supports drug addiction prevention, recovery and education efforts. John Hartnett, a member of the group's board, said the group is excited to support an event that helps to create a trauma-informed community.
"Trauma and adverse childhood experiences are prevalent in the pasts of those who struggle with addiction," Hartnett said. "They are more than just prevalent; actually, there is extensive data that correlates adverse childhood experiences with the likelihood of addiction and a range of chronic health issues.
"This event is instrumental for the community at large to realize the way we treat our kids matters, and further, that we can work together to strengthen our kids to overcome adversity."
The Crawford Area Transportation Authority (CATA) is offering free shuttle service to and from the event, according to Bill Jones, operations manager.
A CATA bus will provide free transportation for anyone who wants to go to the concert. The bus will pick up passengers at the Downtown Mall in Meadville at 6:30 p.m. The bus will be located on Water Street. Several minutes after departing the mall, the bus will also pick up passengers at the bus stop on the northwest corner of Diamond Park.
Bus transportation back to the mall will be provided at the conclusion of the event.
Lorri Drumm can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.