Young composer's big performance

PHILADELPHIA - November 17, 2008 - 11-year-old Aiyana Braun, a 6th grader at Haverford Middle School, practives piano up to four hours per day.

Earlier Monday the prize winning composer sat center stage at the Kimmel Center rehearsing for the Marian Anderson awards honoring author-poet-activist Maya Angelou and groundbreaking television writer/producer and humanitarian Norman Lear.

Aiyana will play at Lear's request.

He heard Aiyana play when her family visited friends in Malibu, who don't have a piano.

As the friend's neighbor, Lear let the young musician practice on his, and was amazed when he heard her play "Keys to Heaven," the piece she wrote for her recently deceased grandmother.

He asked her to play for the ceremony.

"The sun, the moon and the stars all aligned for this to happen. And we're very grateful and so happy at the occasion honoring Maya Angelou and Mr. Lear," said Aiyana's mother Meghan Braun.

Aiyana, who is driven by her passion for music and a desire to be a professional composer, is equally committed to her friendships.

"I like to play with my friends and play basketball in the backyard and stuff like that. But mainly I like to play piano," Aiyana said.

Aiyana's best friend and her twin sister are her cheerleaders. Her sister, Shirina, is a dancer like their mother and father, and she's Aiyana's rock in the face of pre-performance nerves.

"I give her speeches to stay calm, that she's going to be great, because she always does great," Shirina said.

At the show Aiyana will play "Keys to Heaven" for nearly 3,000 people and her grandmom, who she's hopes is listening.

"I just want them to feel what I feel as I'm playing," Aiyana said. "I feel that it's a song that can touch everyone."

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