World-class pianist wows music majors

Haochen Zhang works, hands-on, with SIUE student

“To see someone like that and know… our piano teacher could bring them here is pretty amazing,” said piano performance major Melissa Ray.

“I think our whole piano studio was here tonight,” said music education major, Linsey Boczek.

The two SIUE undergraduates were visibly excited after hearing pianist Haochen Zhang, the youngest person ever to receive a gold medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. That achievement, at 19, followed winning the China International Piano competition when he was 17 years old. Now only 20, Zhang is in demand worldwide for orchestral and recital engagements.

Professor Linda Perry, director of keyboard studies, worked with Arts and Issues director Grant Andree and others to bring the pianist to the Dunham Hall Theater for a September 10th program of Chopin, Brahms and Ginastera. The day before his performance he led a hands-on workshop with several SIUE piano students in a master class; a rare opportunity for SIUE students and the region.

“It’s a public lesson… we invited area music teachers and, of course, our own students,” Perry said. “The interesting thing about this master class is that (Zhang) is the same age as the people he will be teaching… he is 20 years old.”

Perry applied for, and was awarded, an Excellence in Undergraduate Education grant so that her students could work closely with the artist. Zhang recently appeared at the Aspen Summer Music Festival and Academy, as well as the Washington Performing Arts Society, and as part of Carnegie Hall’s “Ancient Paths, Modern Voices: A Festival Celebrating Chinese Culture.” He also soloed at the Beijing Music Festival in the winter of 2009.

Van Cliburn winner instructs SIUE students

Zhang and two SIUE music students

“I think it says a lot for SIUE to make that kind of commitment — to bring in these world-class artists and provocative speakers,” said Andree. “We have these exceptional educational opportunities for our students throughout the year.”

Other artists and speakers coming to SIUE this school year include musician George Winston, the Eisenhower Dance Ensemble, innovator and writer Temple Grandin, and documentarian Ken Burns.

“It’s an incredible opportunity,” said Boczek, “It makes me want to practice a lot more than I do.”

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