The keys are her life

Updated: 2016-08-01 08:19

By Chen Nan(China Daily)

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The keys are her life

[Photo provided to China Daily]

"We didn't want her to become a professional pianist but it seemed like she was fated to be a pianist."

Zhou, whose father is a composer, was born in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, and grew up in Beijing. At age 4, she started learning the piano with her mother, who has majored in piano and vocal performance at Central China Normal University in Wuhan.

She made such rapid progress that she gave her first public performance one year later.

She moved with her parents to Canada when she was 9 and received a scholarship to study at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

Speaking of her passion, Zhou says: "Music is a natural thing for me. I enjoy the atmosphere when I play onstage. I am totally in the zone once I start playing."

Zhou has performed regularly since she entered her teens.

At the age of 16, she was invited to perform Liszt's Piano Concerto No 1 in E minor at the Orpheum Theater to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Vancouver Academy of Music. At 17, she won the grand prize of the Kay Meek Music Competition, where she performed Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor.

In 2011, she gave her first performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations. She was 18.

Zhou is also keen to seek her own musical expression. To that end, she has read lots of books about her favorite composers, such as Bach and Schumann, to better understand them.

"I once went to a graveyard near the campus to feel death to better understand Beethoven," she says.

Zhou has decided to further her studies at the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music because of her professor, Polish pianist Wojciech Switala.

She first met Switala in 2014 when she flew to Poland to participate in an international piano master class in Katowice.

"Switala helps me know myself better," says Zhou.

Zhou, who will graduate next year, has also composed some music.

During the interview, she plays a piece, which she wrote and produced at 15. With the contemporary music beats and fast rapping, the young pianist says that this is her entertainment after school.

She certainly knows what she wants, and doesn't mind the tight schedules, living between airports, hotels and concert halls that come with it.

An early indication of this came when she was 13. Zhou had just performed at the Niagara International Chamber Music Festival.

Recounting the story, her mother says: "On our way back home, it was raining heavily. We had driven for hours when I asked her, 'Are you tired?' She replied: 'No. This is the life of a pianist and I like it'."

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