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Kindness from a competitor helped a 10-year-old pianist with her self doubt

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Time now for "My Unsung Hero," our series from the team at Hidden Brain. "My Unsung Hero" tells the stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else. Today's story comes from a 14-year-old who lives in Beijing. Her name is Angela Zhao. In 2020, when she was just 10 years old, Zhao entered her first piano competition. She was excited, but right before it was her turn to perform, she started to doubt herself.

ANGELA ZHAO: What if I played the wrong notes? What if I forgot the notes? What if I just messed up? Then a competitor of mine made me confident. She was the person before me to perform on the stage. Before it was my turn to go onto the stage and perform my piece, she looked at me and smiled with thumb up. Her smile made the stage light lighter and warmer to me. She made me stop thinking too much and started to think that I can do that. Her smile made me think that the stage is just right for me. And the piano is just right for me. Most importantly, that smile made me think that today, I'm just right, and I can perform on the stage.

After my performance, I can see that she clapped for me and looked straight at me. As a competitor, she gave me respect and helped the shy girl to face the stage. That girl from that day, if you can hear this, I just want you to know, you changed the moment of my life, and your kind smile remained in my memory. And I'll take that smile as a precious gift.

(SOUNDBITE OF PIANO MUSIC)

SHAPIRO: Angela Zhao lives in Beijing, China. The piano you're hearing right now is Zhao's performance in that very competition for which she won a silver award. You can find more stories like this on the "My Unsung Hero" podcast. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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