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Rice Accompanies Young Soprano Who Has Pulmonary Hypertension

The Secretary of State plays six piano selections with a California congressman's ailing daughter at the Kennedy Center.

June 12, 2005|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A musician long before she became an academic and then a world-famous diplomat, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took to the Kennedy Center concert stage Saturday to accompany a young soprano battling an often-fatal disease.

Rice's rare and unpublicized appearance at the piano marked a striking departure from her routine as America's No. 1 diplomat. A pianist from the age of 3, she played half a dozen selections to accompany Charity Sunshine, a 21-year-old singer who was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension a little more than a year ago.

The soprano is a granddaughter of Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo) and his wife, Annette, whom Rice has known for years. The Pulmonary Hypertension Assn., formed in 1990, presented the concert to draw attention to the disease, from which more than 100,000 people are known to suffer.

Largely unknown in the U.S. until about 10 years ago, it has no known cause or cure, but genetic studies and a search for treatment are under way.

Sunshine has persisted in her career and performed with orchestras in the U.S., Denmark and Hungary, the latter of which was her grandparents' home before the Holocaust. On Saturday, in a concert titled "An Evening of Music, Friendship and Awareness" and hosted by Lantos, she drew the secretary of State to play selections by Verdi, Mozart and Jerome Kern.

Eileen Cornett, of the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, accompanied Sunshine on half a dozen other pieces.

Lantos introduced Rice as "a warm friend" and said the concert was her idea, describing how her eyes filled with tears as he told her about his granddaughter's illness.

"We have to do something about this and enhance public consciousness," he quoted Rice as saying. "Let's have a concert, and I will accompany her at the piano."

Rice, whose first name is a variation on the Italian musical term "con dolcezza," which is a direction to play with sweetness, learned to read music at age 3.

As a child she performed, won piano competitions and planned a career as a concert pianist. But she switched her field of interest to international relations in her junior year at the University of Colorado and went on to be provost at Stanford University, then President Bush's assistant for national security and now secretary of State.

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