C.J.
See more of the story

William Yang, 10, of Eden Prairie describes himself as "pretty much a classical purist." He's a prodigy who recently played with the Wayzata Symphony Orchestra, and after auditioning at a New York City event with young musicians from all over the world, William has earned a spot at June's Gina Bachauer Junior & Young Artists International Piano Competitions in Salt Lake City. No, his mom -- who seems a little shocked by his musical development -- played no piano music for William when he was in the womb.

"When he first heard the piano sound [around the age of 4] he was amazed," said his mom, Rong Li. "Just a wonder. He kept on playing and playing. He cannot stop. None of us are pianists," she said of herself, her husband, Junqi Yang, and their other son, Michael, 17.

I thought I had better get to Yang before CBS's Lesley Stahl hears about the prodigy and swoops in for a "60 Minutes" interview. William played a couple of classical selections for me at Roseville's Schmitt Music Center. When asked if he ever misbehaves, William seemed befuddled by the question. He looks like such a perfect little gentleman in his bow tie, but he's a kid and sometimes kids are naughty, right? "Not really," he said in his case. And that was confirmed by Li, who said, "He's a very good boy."

Mom's take was seconded by Sue Freeman Dopp, keyboard manager at Roseville's Schmitt: "I've been totally impressed with William [since he was 5] on every single level. Not just as a musical talent. He's a sweetheart. He's just an all-around good person and he's not full of himself. Hopefully he never will be."

As you can see at startribune.com/video, William remained thoroughly gentlemanly and good humored even while disapproving of my musical taste.

Q What do you enjoy about playing the piano?

A I love it because it makes me feel very calm and peaceful, which is what I like all the time.

Q Do your fingers ever hurt from practicing?

A Sometimes.

Q Do you ever practice so long that your tush falls asleep on the piano bench?

A No, not really.

Q Are you comfortable engaging in the silliness of high fives with your friends?

A High fives I'm fine with, but other stuff, not really.

Q Do you wear any special gloves to protect your hands from injury?

A No.

Q Can you hear a song once and play the intro?

A I guess.

Q What are your hobbies?

A I like playing ping-pong and swimming. I like reading, too.

Q What's the last book you read?

A Probably "The Odyssey."

Q Do you ever feign concern about injuring your hands to avoid chores?

A Yeah, pretty much.

Q Who is your favorite pianist?

A Andre Watts.

Q What's your favorite kind of music?

A Classical music.

Q You don't have a favorite rap artist?

A No [laughter].

Q What's your favorite cartoon?

A I don't watch cartoons.

Q Ever throw a football?

A Well, yeah, sometimes. Not in the real sport of football. Just casually with friends.

Q How famous do you want to be?

A Fame doesn't really matter to me. I just want to be able to play music for all my life.

Interviews are edited for space and clarity. C.J. is at 612.332.TIPS, cj@startribune.com and on Fox 9 Thursday mornings.