OREM — David Glen Hatch loves performing, especially when it benefits orphans, impoverished children and people who are in great need.
That's why — over the past 15 years — he's made an effort to schedule in and agree to play benefit concerts all over the world, even when it sometimes meant playing on a rented upright piano or getting away from a pair of muggers on a dark night.
"I walked through a dark park (in Ukraine) at 11 p.m. I was going to phone my wife when two guys flanked me. After that was 90 minutes of hell," said the renowned pianist, flexing his wrist. "They tried to get me in their car, but the Spirit told me 'Do NOT get in the car!' It was a horrible, horrific thing. I fought. I tried to run and turned up an alley.
"Just then a little Babushka grandmother walked out and they let go. I ran to the intersection. When my big rubber SKECHERS hit the cobblestones, I flew into the air and landed on my left hand. I damaged the tendon. It still bothers me when I practice a long time."
That's major since Hatch routinely practices several hours a day for his concerts and lessons.
He relies on his ability to play for his livelihood and existence. Practicing, rehearsing, recording and performing fill his days.
Children in China, Russia, Italy, France, Japan, Argentina, Australia, Peru, Ukraine, Slovenia and Chile are better off because of it.
Hatch routinely accepts offers to come to foreign countries and put on benefit concerts with the revenue going to hospitals, orphanages and special causes such as the one in Slovenia where a young boy born with spina bifida needed an electric wheelchair.
Without Hatch's help, Ram Vidra's family could not have afforded the chair.
Hatch teaches music workshops in high schools and colleges, donates to scholarship funds for schools and food banks. He has helped with the prevention and treatment of burns, performing for ambassadors, members of the consulate and high-ranking government officials at an exclusive charity event for the Burn Center in Santiago, Chile.
"I have been working with different charities around the world," Hatch said. "I've had a lot of fun. I'll keep going if they keep asking me.
"I really love working for children, and it's nice when we can meet the people involved, see the actual results."
Sometimes he takes some of his best students along so they can have an international concert tour experience. On their way they take duffel bags of small toys and art supplies to pass out to village children.
Routinely, he schedules free firesides for the local LDS Church congregations. He's often changed his performance plan because the Spirit tells him another song is a better choice.
"I've had a lot of experiences where people tell me their hearts were touched by a particular piece or something gave them comfort," Hatch said.
In one instance, he was prompted to change from playing "How Great Thou Art" to "I Am a Child of God" only to have a grandfather come up later to tell him the song eased his guilt over a grandson's death six months earlier.
A woman in Oakland, Calif., told Hatch he saved her life with his music. She was contemplating suicide before she started listening to one of Hatch's CDs.
So, despite the exhaustion and demands on constant travel, Hatch is committed to continuing his charity tours. (At one concert in Paris, he arrived, jet-lagged at 9 a.m., and had to play a concert that night with no chance to rehearse.)
"It's a lot of work, a lot of travel. The last one was 17 days of go-go-go! But it's enjoyable and rewarding," he said. "The people in charge usually go all out, creating huge publicity banners and signs. They do all the arranging."
Only once in a while does something go wrong such as the time in Barcelona when he walked in to find a rented upright piano waiting for him to play.
"No way I can play my (Franz) Liszt on an upright," Hatch said. "Plus the guys put the pedals on wrong so there was no sustaining. The entire concert was played in staccato."
Now he specifies in his contract that he must have a tuned, grand piano in working order.
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 30 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.