Playing with the Hip
Pianist Annie Zhou on the road to Julliard and performing worldwide
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