- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 12, 2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took to the Kennedy Center concert stage last night to accompany a young soprano battling an often-fatal disease.

Miss Rice’s rare and unheralded public appearance at the piano marked a striking departure from her routine as America’s No. 1 diplomat.

A pianist from age 3, she played a half-dozen selections to accompany Charity Sunshine, 21, a singer who was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension a little more than a year ago.

The soprano is a granddaughter of Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat, and his wife, Annette, who Miss Rice has known for years.

The Pulmonary Hypertension Association, formed in 1990, presented the concert to draw attention to the disease, which affects more than 100,000 persons. Largely unknown in the United States until about 10 years ago, it has no known cause or cure.

Miss Sunshine has persisted in her career, performing with orchestras in Hungary (her grandparents’ home before the Holocaust), Denmark and the United States. Last night, in a concert titled ?An Evening of Music, Friendship and Awareness? and hosted by Mr. Lantos, the singer drew the secretary of state to play selections by Verdi, Mozart and Jerome Kern.

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

Mr. Lantos introduced Miss 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 Miss Rice as saying. ?Let’s have a concert, and I will accompany her at the piano.?

Miss Rice — whose first name is a variation on the Italian musical term ?con dolcezza,? a direction to play with sweetness — learned to read music before she was 4.

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.

Despite her busy schedule, Miss Rice finds time to enjoy classical music and plays occasionally and privately with friends in a string quartet.

Among those in the Kennedy Center audience were U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, eight ambassadors to the United States, Librarian of Congress James Billington, National Institutes of Health Director Elias Zerhouni and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith.

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