Senior Jennifer Zhou pursues her musical talents outside the classroom

Kristy Helscel ‘11 & Eman Albash ‘10

Senior Jennifer Zhou’s passion for music flourished at the age of four when she imitated a violinist she saw on TV by rubbing chopsticks together. Zhou’s fascination with the violin did not last because she hated the lessons, but she began playing the flute, and loved it. Since then, Zhou joined school bands and entered in numerous music competitions.

One of her most notable performances was in 2009 when Zhou played in the Marine Band Concerto Competition and won. Zhou said she was worried about performing with the prestigious band.

“When I met the band it was nerve wracking, but they were nice and easy to get along with,” she said.

With the exception of her win in the Marine Band Concerto Competition, one of Zhou’s greatest musical accomplishments, was her acceptance into the Aspen Summer Music Festival, just last February.

“The Aspen Festival is exactly as it sounds: it’s an eight-week orchestral program held in Aspen, Colorado,” Zhou said. “It’s extremely competitive for the winds, and even harder for high schoolers to wedge in with musicians of post-college degrees and of all worldly backgrounds.”

With her summer plans settled, Zhou has been able to focus on her new challenge—college auditions.

According to Zhou, college auditions are stressful for everyone involved and results are comparable to the Olympic trials.

“Results of auditions are subjective, kind of like the Olympics or any other competitive event,” Zhou said. “Auditions are based primarily on your performance there, but there can also be many underlying [factors].”

Zhou, who applied to four music conservatories including The Julliard School and Columbia University for combined programs, found college auditions challenging. Zhou said that judges would analyze applicants based off trivial characteristics, including a bad first impression, the type of program they applied to and connections to the school.

Unlike most seniors, college applications required a little more from Zhou.

“College auditions started out, for me, like regular college applications, except I also needed to prepare a pre-screening recording of required repertoire for each conservatory,” she said. “Based on the CD sent with the application, you may or may not be invited back to the school for a live audition.”

According to Zhou, many students are cut from the pre-screening round, while some continue to the live audition round, which can be stressful.

“During the live audition round, everyone is tired from practicing and traveling back and forth, making up missed assignments from school, etc.,” Zhou said. “It’s complete chaos.”

However, Zhou’s hard work paid off, as she has been chosen as one of the seven students to be in the final round at The Curtis Institute of Music.

Originally, according to Zhou, a couple hundred flutists applied for Curtis, then 25 were invited for live auditions and call backs, and lastly, seven were chosen from the 25.

“The seven chosen to be in the final round were not all people from the U.S.; there were flutists from South Korea and Australia!” she said. “I am so happy to be one of those seven; I really am lucky to have been chosen for a chance at admission to this awesome, tuition-free school.”

Although Zhou said she puts a lot of time into her music—which sometimes gets in the way of her academics—the effort has been rewarding.

“My favorite part about playing the flute is being able to meet all the different people,” Zhou said. “I don’t think I’d have met so many unique and talented individuals if it weren’t for my flute.”

Band director Mike Manser has helped encourage Zhou to pursue her talents as a musician. Although Manser said he does not typically encourage students to major in music performance, he said he thinks that Zhou can excel in music.

“[Zhou] is a great individual to work with,” Manser said. “She is at a level few of us are ever around, let alone listen to.”

Photo by Nicole Wagner