20231121 TJE Editorial 1


On the evening of October 27, students from the Instrumental and Chamber Music Studies major took to the stage for their first performance of the season with the Tianjin Juilliard Ensemble. The Tianjin Juilliard Ensemble, a world-class, mixed-instrument ensemble, showcases the distinguished faculty from The Tianjin Juilliard School. Students also have the opportunity to join the ensemble on stage to perform side-by-side with their teachers. Presenting a captivating program that included Vaughan Williams' Piano Quintet in C minor and Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat major, we hear from Katarina Elise (MM ’25, cello), Galina Nikolin (MM ’25, piano) and Qianwen Liu (MM ’25, violin), who share their reflections on their performance with the Tianjin Juilliard Ensemble. 

"I think it is a very rare opportunity for schools to offer students the chance to perform with faculty," Katarina begins. Side-by-side performances and the unique structure of the Tianjin Juilliard Ensemble allow students to share the stage with their studio teachers, who in this case, happen to be members of the Shanghai Quartet. 

The Shanghai Quartet’s role as both mentors and collaborators adds a unique dimension to students’ learning journey. "There's a ton you can learn from sitting beside and being in rehearsals with them," Katarina observes. 

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Katarina Elise (MM '25, cello) and Haowen Sun (MM '25, viola) perform with faculty member Nick Tzavaras

Adapting on the spot and communicating using non-verbal cues and musical gestures in a rehearsal setting presents a unique and stimulating challenge. Reflecting on sitting next to Nick Tzavaras during rehearsals, “It was a great challenge to adjust on the spot to his expectations without communicating as we would in my lessons," says Katarina. 

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Qianwen Liu (MM '25, violin) and Angelina Lee (MM '24, violin) perform with faculty members Weigang Li, Angelo Yu and Honggang Li

On the other hand, Qianwen Liu (MM ’25, violin) highlights the crucial insights provided by each instructor during rehearsals. Nick Tzavaras stressed the significance of eye contact among ensemble members, fostering a profound sense of connection and unity.  Honggang Li detected even the most minor nuances, guiding the ensemble on dynamics, determining when to emphasize or soften passages precisely. Sitting beside Angelo Yu during rehearsals, Qianwen  learned from his clear and efficient instructions. Lastly, from Weigang Li's artistic sensibilities, she found herself completely immersed in the music.  

Reflecting on her evolution as a professional musician, Qianwen expresses gratitude for the opportunity to collaborate closely with Tianjin Juilliard faculty members. Performing alongside her teachers offered a unique perspective compared to traditional classroom settings. "They are the artistic benchmark," she affirms, recognizing the profound impact of their mentorship.  

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Galina Nikolin (MM '25, piano) performs with faculty members Zhangjuan Liu and Yeonjin Kim

For Galina Nikolin (MM ’25, piano), the chance to perform alongside accomplished faculty members at Tianjin Juilliard has proven transformative. 

"Considering that they are all performing artists that I would get to see from the audience, sharing the stage with them is certainly a very unique experience," Galina begins. As she recalls their first rehearsal for Vaughan Williams' Piano Quintet, a complex piece requiring intricate ensemble work, “it felt like they already had a very clear idea of what we should do.” 

As the resident ensemble of The Tianjin Juilliard School, the Tianjin Juilliard Ensemble features some of the world’s finest classical musicians. Through their experience as members of Tianjin Juilliard’s faculty roster, the ensemble also features some of the world’s most sought-after pedagogues. Performance and pedagogy go hand in hand, and the opportunity to both play and learn alongside artists of this caliber is a rare experience.