Play­ing with the Hip

Pi­anist Annie Zhou on the road to Jul­liard and per­form­ing world­wide

Village Post - - Life - by Nikki Gill

At age four, Annie Zhou be­gan play­ing the pi­ano as a stu­dent at the Royal Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic. Four short years later, she was per­form­ing on stage with the Trag­i­cally Hip at RCM’s an­nual Royal Oc­ca­sion gala. It’s safe to say she isn’t the typ­i­cal pi­ano stu­dent.

“It seemed to start as a nat­u­ral at­tach­ment for me,” Zhou says about play­ing pi­ano, “though I can’t say the same about per­form­ing on­stage.”

Zhou’s pi­ano ca­reer led her to join the Taylor Academy at the RCM at age 11 where she stayed for seven years study­ing un­der Ma­ri­etta Orlov. She was se­lected as a CBC Next! artist in 2013 and had her mu­sic broad­cast on CBC Ra­dio Two.

She also took home the top prize at the Et­tlin­gen In­ter­na­tional Com­pe­ti­tion in 2012 and the Moscow In­ter­na­tional Chopin Com­pe­ti­tion in 2014.

She is now in her first year study­ing pi­ano at the Jul­liard School.

Zhou says bal­anc­ing her aca­demics and her mu­sic has been dif­fi­cult over the years.

“On a nor­mal day, I would go di­rectly to the RCM af­ter [Univer­sity of Toronto Schools] to prac­tise pi­ano. Af­ter that, I’d go home to have din­ner and do home­work. Very of­ten I would need to shift my fo­cus to­ward ei­ther mu­sic or my aca­demic stud­ies, de­pend­ing on what events were com­ing up,” she says.

“The worst sce­nario was when an im­por­tant mu­si­cal event would be dur­ing exam week at school.”

Zhou says the sup­port from her teach­ers and class­mates at both UTS and RCM made a huge dif­fer­ence.

“The [RCM] was like a fam­ily to me, and I have many happy mem­o­ries from that time.”

With a full sched­ule be­tween aca­demics and pi­ano, Zhou says she didn’t get to ex­pe­ri­ence much out­side of those two realms.

“Be­ing a se­ri­ous mu­si­cian is a large time com­mit­ment, so I hardly had much time to ex­plore other ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties.”

It’s clear Zhou’s hard work and ded­i­ca­tion have paid off in her mu­sic ca­reer.

She’s only in her first year of post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion, and yet she’s al­ready trav­elled to the U.S., France, Italy, Switzer­land, Ger­many, Liecht­en­stein, China and across Canada for com­pe­ti­tions and per­for­mances.

“My most mem­o­rable per­for­mances would have to be at Carnegie Hall in New York in 2010, a duo with Lang Lang on CTV in 2011, and a solo recital as a fea­tured young pi­anist in the Au­di­to­rium du Lou­vre in Paris in 2016,” says Zhou.

In March she recorded some solo and cham­ber works for an al­bum that UTS is pro­duc­ing.

“The record­ing will be re­leased on Naxos by Cam­bria Mas­ter Record­ings, so I am very ex­cited about that,” she says.

And she’s pre­par­ing for her con­cert at the Arts and Let­ters Club of Toronto on June 7.

Be­ing a se­ri­ous mu­si­cian is a large time com­mit­ment.”

Zhou per­formed on stage with the Trag­i­cally Hip when she was eight

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