Zhang wins 2019 National Young Artists Competition

Michelle Yin Zhang (right) with Marguerite Scribante Professor of Piano Paul Barnes.
Michelle Yin Zhang (right) with Marguerite Scribante Professor of Piano Paul Barnes.

Zhang wins 2019 National Young Artists Competition

calendar icon23 Jan 2019    user iconBy Kathe C. Andersen

Lincoln, Neb.--Michelle Yin Zhang, a doctoral piano student in the Glenn Korff School of Music, has won the 2019 National Young Artists Competition in the college piano division and will perform Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto with the Coeur D’Alene Symphony in Idaho this coming March.

Winners from each of the five categories (high school instrumental, college strings, college piano, college winds/percussion and vocals) will perform as soloists with the Coeur d’Alene Symphony on March 8 and 9, 2019.

Her piano professor, Marguerite Scribante Professor of Piano Paul Barnes, said Zhang has tremendous talent.

“She did her undergraduate degree in journalism, and she has just exploded here at the Glenn Korff School of Music in my studio,” he said. “Ravel has this incredible ‘Gaspard De La Nuit.’ It’s one of the hardest pieces in the solo repertoire, and she just nailed it on one of her recitals. And Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto is one of the hardest concertos. But it’s not that she can just play the notes. She really has a deep understanding of the musical message behind all these billions of notes. And she communicates that so beautifully.”

Last year, Zhang was selected as one of the winners in the 2018 International Maestro Piano and Strings Competition and performed in July at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

“I thought before I went there for the finals that it might be almost impossible to win since it was a national competition and pianists were competing from all over the country,” Zhang said. “I thought just being there was enough for me.”

She is excited for the opportunity to meet new people and to work with the conductor, Maestro Jan Pellant. Pellant was born in the Czech Republic and lived for several years in Japan. He studied at Prague Conservatory and came to the U.S. to study music at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Kentucky and is completing his doctorate in conducting as he joins the symphony.

“I think it’s a good chance to rethink my playing,” Zhang said. “It’s not all about playing music and expressing your feelings without noticing the things you learn in class. It’s not enough to just play all the notes right. It’s important, but it’s also hard to play with these two things in your head and play with balance.”

Zhang is also the studio assistant for Barnes, so she teaches his undergraduate students when he is on tour.

Originally from Shenzhen, China, Zhang won several piano competitions in her home country, including the first prize of the 2nd Kingsburg Piano Competition and the 2007 Yi Pei Music Festival Competition. She is in her last year of DMA study in piano performance at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.