22 February 2018
Lauren reaches Piano finals of BBC’s Young Musician of the Year competition
Piano prodigy Lauren Zhang, 16, a Year 11 pupil at King Edward VI High School for Girls, Birmingham, is celebrating after reaching the final stages of the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year competition. Lauren, from Harborne, was one of just five gifted teenagers whittled down during two highly-competitive rounds, from over 150 talented young pianists who entered the prestigious contest. The only Birmingham musician to reach the finals, she will now take on her rivals to decide the Category winner in the Keyboard section on March 20th one of the first major competitions to be held, the Birmingham Conservatoire where she has studied since the age of 8.
“I never thought I’d be good enough to enter Young Musician of the Year,” admitted Lauren, “but my piano teacher Dr Robert Markham encouraged me to enter – he won the Piano Category himself in the 1980s. When I heard I was through to last five, I literally couldn’t believe it, I was so shocked. My friends are coming to support me in the finals and my school’s been really encouraging and flexible, as I’m juggling music and GCSE revision. They’ve let me take one of my exams early, giving me extra free periods to practise in and time off to compete and perform recitals. I also enjoy music for fun, taking part in chamber music with my friends and I’ve just been playing in the band for our school’s senior production ‘Oh what a lovely War.’ On a school day I do up to 2 hours of good-quality practice, thinking about the heart and emotion in the pieces, not just the technical aspects. Dr Markham’s taught me it’s extremely important to understand the music.”
Timothy English, Head of the Junior Conservatoire described Lauren as an “extraordinary young pianist whose latest success is richly deserved.” Michelle Sanders, KEHS Director of Music praised her phenomenal talent and modesty, explaining
“Through her willingness to adapt to different roles, whether as a soloist or as part of an ensemble, Lauren is an inspiration to others.”
Since starting piano lessons aged 4, Lauren has won a string of major piano and violin classes including the top contest for young pianists worldwide, the Ettlingen International Piano competition in 2016. A talented fencer and artist, she also enjoys Biology, History and Physics, partly inspired by her parents who both work at Birmingham University, her mother a statistician specialising in Econometrics, her father a physicist. After excelling in the UK Mathematical Olympiad, Lauren was one of a handful of outstanding teenage mathematicians offered a coveted place at an Oxford University Maths Camp last summer.
For the moment, though, she is focussing her attention on the three contrasting virtuoso pieces she will play at the Category finals in March. The top Keyboard player will then compete against the individual winners of the Woodwind, Brass, Percussion and Strings sections in May to decide the BBC Young Musician of the Year, an accolade which has often led to an international career.