Maik Guo found the US animated cartoon series Tom and Jerry fascinating as a child.
The escapades of the cat and mouse characters, who don't talk, were delightfully told through music instead.
I hope they (children) can learn classical music skills and enjoy animations at the same time, so I combined the two
Maik Guo, Chinese-German pianist
His favorite cartoon sparked a lifelong interest in animations' soundtracks. The 27-year-old Chinese-German pianist, who's widely known as Animenz, still enjoys anime and comics.
Eight years ago, Guo began to adapt animation music with the techniques he learned through his classical training. The music used in animations is striking, while classical music is as "elegant and lively as flowing water", he says.
"Children all love animation and the music used in it. I hope they can learn classical music skills and enjoy animations at the same time, so I combined the two," says Guo.
The pianist has adapted more than 100 songs from cartoons. In the process, he has watched more than 500 cartoons, including such popular series as One Piece, Naruto and Digimon Adventure. It takes him 50 to 100 hours to complete one adaptation.
At the end of 2010, Guo started to share his works online. His impressive performances have earned him more than 1 million fans and 170 million clicks on his YouTube channel. His top Unravel adaptation recorded 31 million clicks as of this month.
Guo was born in a small town, Bad Urach, in southern Germany. At the age of 4, he visited the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida with his parents. The background music stayed in his mind. He soon started playing the piano.
Guo's piano teacher, Stefan Kramer, says he has a gifted memory for music. His parents never forced him to undertake any professional training.
"Many teenagers don't have any passion for music. They study it only for good grades, and genuine hobbies are filtered out," says his father, Guo Jun.
Maik Guo says he is very thankful for the way he was raised and the freedom he was given when he was young.
Children will definitely follow through with something if they are really interested in it, he says.
Unfortunately, many people still don't really understand why they are learning music and consider practicing instruments as "homework".
"Music should never be seen as homework. And if you are forced to learn music, you will not be attracted to it," he says.
He speaks from experience. When he was 16, he wanted to watch a lot of Japanese animations, but his parents wouldn't let him.
He got a job packing soap during summer vacation instead. He was paid 12 euros (US$14) per hour, plus 10 cents per piece. So he moved fast.
"My father gave me an iPod so I could listen to music while I was packing. I packed the soap following the rhythm of the music."
He earned 1,350 euros with his summer job and bought a computer with the money.
Guo's personal interest in the piano drove him to eventually play it seriously.
He participated in the Jugend Musiziert, a young musicians competition in Germany, at the age of 16. He won the first prize that year and in the following two competitions.
He was then invited to play Beethoven's third piano concerto with the Botosani National Philharmonic Orchestra from Romania in Germany and Romania.
Guo has been on a world tour every summer since 2013, playing for audiences in cities, including Los Angeles, Tokyo, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Vancouver.
His ongoing tour in China, from July to October, covers 13 cities, including Beijing, Tianjin, Shaanxi's provincial capital, Xi'an, and Shenzhen in Guangdong province.
The July concert in Guangdong's capital, Guangzhou, drew mostly high school and university students.
Guo "knows his audience well, and he fills a gap in the animation music market", according to the Guangzhou-based Information Times newspaper.
Guo says he used to purchase music scores online as a high school student. They were expensive and stretched his limited pocket money.
Now he wants to share his music with as many people as possible, "all over the world".
In the process, he also wants to continue arousing interest in playing the piano and their appreciation of classical music.
"I hope people can learn to play the piano on their own initiative, instead of just doing it passively."
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