Piano Prodigy and Philanthropist Donna Stoering Moves to Salt Lake City


Donna Stoering at her piano. (Courtesy Donna Stoering)

By Heather Graham, Assistant Copy Chief, Arts Writer


For Donna Stoering, music has always been part of the rhythm of her soul.

Her impressive resume boasts a variety of accomplishments in music, from teaching professionally at ten years old, serving as head of a California music school piano department at 17 and completing BA and MA degrees in music at 19 to countless years of solo and ensemble performances and tours, guest lectures, recitals and master-class teaching at major music conservatories and universities worldwide.

She also served as Artistic Ambassador for the U.K. and U.S. to countries around the world and has worked with famous opera stars and renowned instrumentalists. 

Being a musical prodigy at such a young age never really felt different or special to Stoering. “I guess I was kind of an old soul,” she said. “Whenever I’ve interacted with anyone, I’ve always felt that I was at the age of whatever that person is, whether they’re 100 years younger than I am, or 100 years older than I am. My parents were amazing, and they just wanted me to be a kid. When people over all the years would interview me, they’d assume that my parents must have pushed me into this and I’d say no, not at all.”

With three adopted children, Stoering the eldest, her parents were very open to letting their children find their own interests and talents and encouraged them to follow their passion or talent. When Stoering wanted to explore piano playing at two-and-a-half years old, her mother quickly started calling around to find a piano teacher for her daughter. She soon found that most teachers refused to work with such a young student, so she signed up for classes for herself and then shared what she learned with her daughter. Two years later, Stoering was accepted at Mills College in Oakland where she studied until she was a teenager before following the next step in her musical career.

Years of teaching, touring and non-profit work have allowed Stoering to live in dozens of cities and countries around the world, most recently the Salt Lake valley. “I love moving and meeting new people and having new challenges and just whole new adventures,” Stoering said. “I’ve lived all over the world. If I’m living in a particular place, after a couple years, no matter if it’s nirvana, I get bored, and I want to go somewhere else, even if it’s terrible, just to experiment, you know, just to have that adventure, of living somewhere.”

As she finds her new adventures in Utah, she is looking forward to becoming involved in her community and continuing to showcase her talents and work on her many exciting projects — like her award-winning global music non-profit, Listen For Life.

A Global Vision, A Global Story

Founded in 1998, Listen For Life is an award-winning all-volunteer non-profit organization that supports and houses many projects around the world using music to make a difference in all areas of life.

Volunteers from many disciplines and passions work with Listen For Life to create their own projects or support current campaigns and use their skills and talents to bring the mission of the organization and its projects to as many people as they can.

University students are also welcome to propose joint research projects, take part in internships and service projects and contribute in a variety of ways to use music to help heal and inspire. All projects center music in different ways to create a better world, amplify voices and cultures and encourage healing 

Travels with Music

Travels with Music is one of the significant projects that Listen For Life sustains. The project was designed to help artists share their talents and the unique stories of their cultures with the world. 

Explaining the origins of the project, Stoering said, “I was meeting all of these musicians that were trying to save their music cultures from the threat of extinction caused by ironically VH1 and MTV and all of these other networks that were going into their countries buying out their radio stations.”

These stations, hungry for advertising revenue, funneled U.K. and American pop music into areas that had not been exposed to it before, squashing the historic opportunities and musical folklore. Groups soon began to see their own cultural traditions of music and rhythm disappear, replaced by the sounds of western music and lost to future generations. 

Stoering said she was “hearing basically the same problem just in a different way, different culture. Like, ‘somebody has to do something about this.’ And they’re all like, ‘well, you’re the one who’s on our TV, why not you?’” 

With a continued goal of preserving and showcasing at least 120 cultures through their music, the Travels With Music project has created an archive of video content featuring musicians and cultures around the world as well as invited others to help the content base grow with informal videos, interviews and performances. The project hopes to not only build representation of all cultures but also share stories and experiences about music and culture.

Music for Medicine

Recently, Listen For Life launched a project called Music For Medicine, creating musical programs with world-class artists specifically for hospital use.

Stoering and violinist Erin Nolan had just finished recording a live CD, improvising melodies that have been recognized to have healing effects. They’d shared the CDs with friends and family, but soon found another important use for their songs.

“When the pandemic started I heard leading neurologists on NPR talking about how they were begging for someone to please come up with some intentionally created music, specific rhythms and pulses and harmonies — that and a delivery mechanism where they could put that particular music next to the ear, on the pillows of ICU patients during COVID,” Stoering said.

The Music for Medicine website acknowledges that hospitals can be very stressful. Doctors are aware that there is significant stress caused to patients from the medical machines around patients and the other jumbled noises that surround a hospital bedside. They are also aware of the toll that these stressors can take on hospital personnel, doctors and nurses.

The Music for Medicine project worked for the first six months of the pandemic, developing the album they titled “Against The Noise,” dedicating it to the hard-working front-line caregivers and medical staff that worked through the global crisis. They offer the program for free, donating to any organization or care facility that can use it and using donations to purchase the small mp3 players for use and loading them with the music collection. 

“We’ve seen such a powerful reaction to this from ICU patients,” Stoering said. “Families will contact us, or we get contacted by the directors of nursing in tears, saying, ‘you know what, this has made such a difference, not only for our patients but for our staff, because they are so stressed out.’”

Stoering says the hardest part of the project is getting the program into the hands of those who need it and can use it most.


Whether Salt Lake City becomes nirvana for Stoering or just another stop on the journey, it is certain that she will bring her skill, talent and vision for a better world through music to her new home and add her voice to the melodies of the valley. 

“There’s a soundtrack to everything,” she said. “And music is so much more than a soundtrack. It’s a healing tool. It’s communication. That’s the thing I try and get across to people.”

Find Stoering and her projects at the Listen For Life website, on Twitter or in person on Oct. 14, 2021, performing at the Bountiful Davis Art Center’s Musicfest.


[email protected]