BBC Young Musician competition finalist – Chinese pianist Lauren Zhang

Chinese pianist Lauren Zhang has been named as a finalist in the prestigious BBC Young Musician competition, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2018.

Lauren impressed the judges during the regional auditions in late 2017 and is now one of five musicians to have progressed to the Keyboard Category Final. All five Category Finals – strings, keyboard, woodwind, percussion and brass – will take place in Birmingham between Friday 16 and Tuesday 20 March 2018.

The 16-year-old musician studies at the Junior Conservatoire, part of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, with the music and acting college also hosting the Category Finals of the competition, as well as the Semi Final on Friday 23 March.

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The Final will take place at Symphony Hall Birmingham, led by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Mark Wigglesworth. The competition will be broadcast on BBC television and BBC Radio 3.

Lauren Zhang said:

“The fantastic musical education, supportive environment and long-lasting friendships that I have made at the Junior Conservatoire have always inspired me and immensely helped my musical development.”

Lauren is taught by Dr Robert Markham at the Junior Conservatoire, who himself was a finalist in the BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition in 1986, where he was awarded the Piano Prize. Lauren also studies violin at the Junior Conservatoire under Sam Mason.

Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Lauren applied for the Junior Conservatoire in 2010 while her mother, Hui, was taking a sabbatical year in Birmingham. Despite planning to return to the USA, after Lauren began working with Dr Markham her family decided to remain in the UK as a result of what Hui calls “the power of music tuition at the Junior Conservatoire.”

Lauren began her piano lessons with Madeline Ignazito in the USA when she was four years old. Since studying at the Junior Conservatoire, Lauren has enjoyed musical guidance under Terry Coulton, Kenneth Hamilton, Madeline Ignazito, and Rebecca Omordia.

The Junior Conservatoire offers specialist training to young musicians between the ages of four and 18 with exceptional potential and the ability to achieve that potential. They train young musicians to a level where they could gain a place at a senior conservatoire or music college, as well as offer preparation for the Associated Board exams to Grade 8 and Diploma levels.

Timothy English, Head of Junior Conservatoire, said:

“It is very exciting that one of our own young musicians has qualified for the Category Finals in one of the first major competitions to be held at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

“Lauren has been a student at the Junior Conservatoire for the past eight years and it has been a great privilege to watch her develop into an extraordinary young pianist. She is a musician of exceptional talent and commitment, and this latest success is richly deserved.”

Lauren achieved distinction in the Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music exam in piano performance and the Licentiate of Trinity College London in violin performance respectively, at the age of 12. She achieved the fellowship of Trinity College London in Piano recital at the age of 13.

Lauren has won many classes at local, regional and national festivals and competitions. In 2016, she was the first prize winner of the 15th Ettlingen International Piano Competition. She was also a prize winner at the Young Pianist of the North International Competition in 2015. She won the first prize of the European Piano Teacher Association (UK) in the 15 years and under category in 2015. She also secured third place in the Beethoven Intercollegiate Junior Piano Competition at the Austrian Cultural Forum London in 2015.

In 2016, Lauren was awarded the first prize in the prestigious Emanuel Piano Trophy which is open to the winner of the top senior piano award at any music festival held in the previous year.

The competition was adjudicated by Christopher Elton, Professor Emeritus of the Royal Academy of Music, who said of her performance of Ravel:

“She played a remarkable ‘Scarbo’ and was really impressive – not just her virtuosity, but the ability to make the piece sound ‘French’ and to play with subtlety.”

Lauren is interested in history, biology and physics and in her spare time she enjoys reading, fencing and chamber music.

BBC Young Musician is a part of the BBC’s ongoing commitment to supporting and providing a platform for new and emerging talent.

Part of Birmingham City University, the new £57 million Royal Birmingham Conservatoire which opened in the Eastside region of the city last September, will also welcome the BBC Young Musician Jazz Award Final in 2018.

Launched three years ago, the BBC Young Musician Jazz Award runs alongside the established classical music format and aims to showcase another group of exceptional young musicians to audiences across the UK. Current Royal Birmingham Conservatoire student Elliott Sansom reached the finals in 2016.

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