As a Tianjin Juilliard graduate student, Xu Jinzhao has enjoyed a homecoming experience - returning from abroad to study chamber music at Juilliard’s new branch campus in China. In 2016, he was enrolled in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where he studied piano and immersed in chamber music playing. As both his parents are music teachers, learning the piano came as second nature to him. Originally studying in Shanghai as a child, he was later admitted to the affiliated primary school and middle school of the Central Conservatory of Music. Jinzhao has been excitedly settling down in Tianjin and pursuing his studies at Tianjin Juilliard since he got admitted to the Chamber Music program, majoring in piano.
How did you arrive at your decision to apply to The Tianjin Juilliard School?
I am very interested in the Juilliard education model and look forward to be part of this new and unique community. In my first year of study at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, my ensemble was fortunate to receive mentorship. We studied with Mr. He Wei, who was then the head of the Strings Department at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. I often attended Mr. He's violin class, playing sonatas for violin and piano or other compositions together with his students. With his teaching, I had a much better understanding of duets and trios for the very first time. Since Mr. He became the artistic director and dean at Tianjin Juilliard, my classmates and I have been paying close attention to the development of the school. Last year, Professor Wang Xiaohan, one of my secondary school teachers in China, joined Tianjin Juilliard and this news was exciting! There are many excellent music schools, however, the Tianjin Juilliard program stands out as chamber music is a major and does not play a secondary role to solo playing, unlike most schools. I hope to combine learning with professional development through performance and become a chamber music player with rich stage experience.
How does it feel to be back in China as a musician?
I am inspired to continue spreading the love and power of classical music to audiences in China. In the summer of 2018, our ensemble, the Oak Piano Trio, had a small performance in Shanghai. The audiences were mainly young piano students and their parents. During that memorable performance, we played The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires by Piazzolla and the Cello Sonata in C Major by Prokofiev. What touched me was that those audiences were mainly young children and their grandparents. They quietly listened to our performance and gave us an ovation after the performance. One year later, when we performed again in Shanghai, I saw a young and familiar face. She’s a six-year-old girl. Her mom told us that they were in the audience of the previous concert, where her daughter watched the concert enraptured and wanted to learn the violin. While the little girl heard that we had another performance, she asked her mom to bring her to attend the concert. I was so touched for the very first time, because I did not expect our music would have such an impact on a child. Although classical music is an art derived from Europe, it can also take root in the heart of the Chinese as a universal art form. In China, classical music concerts in China are well attended by young audiences and this is very encouraging for the future of classical music!
How was the experience participating in last year’s inaugural Tianjin Chamber Music Festival co-organized by Tianjin Juilliard?
Last year, my ensemble was invited to participate in the festival. We learned a lot! At this festival, each chamber music group had two music instructors. We were instructed by Ms. Astrid Schween, the renowned cellist of the Juilliard String Quartet, and Mr. Wang Xiaohan. Professor Schween offered more possibilities in music from the perspective of string musicians, while Mr. Wang gave me more practical suggestions on piano playing. During the festival, I was inspired by their total devotion to music and enthusiasm for chamber music. I also got to experience the local culture of Tianjin and visited the campus site!