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Q&A: Sophomore takes first in Music Marvel piano competition after 11 years of tickling the ivories (video included)

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(Photo used by permission of Zhang)
Sophomore Allison Zhang performs in the Sutter Cancer Center’s lobby in the summer.

Sophomore Allison Zhang participated in Music Marvel’s annual Piano Marvel YouTube Competition and won first place in the High School category on March 16.

Q: What exactly is Music Marvel?

A: Music Marvel is a piano company that makes software for teachers. You can connect their software to a keyboard, and it will give you music to play from their database. If you play on the keyboard that is connected to Music Marvel, it can give you feedback as well. My piano teacher started using Music Marvel last year. This is the first time my teacher has submitted any of her students to the competition.

Q: How does their competition work?

A: You record yourself playing a piece (from) the Music Marvel database. You then upload your video to YouTube under a specific title (Piano Marvel Competition 2017 (Performer/s) “Title” by Composer), where judges can see it.

There are six categories in the competition: Early Elementary (ages 5-7), Late Elementary (ages 8-10), Middle School (ages 11-13), High School (ages 14-18), Ensemble, and Composition. Winners in each category get a cash prize, from $50-$150. I competed in the High School category, so my prize was $150.

Q: Is the competition national or international?

(Photo used by permission of Zhang)
Sophomore Allison Zhang plays at Eskaton Monroe Lodge as part of an event organized by the Lifting Spirits with Music foundation.

A: It’s a national competition. There are no county or state divisions: musicians upload their video, and then judges choose finalists. These finalists are then judged a second time. All videos are open for public viewing, and judges use YouTube comments to evaluate videos, so that is open to the public as well.

Q: Did you watch other videos?

A: Yes. A week before finalists were announced, I started seeing comments on my video (from the judges). When I saw the comments, I got worried, so I checked many other videos to see whether they had comments as well.

I checked what people said about each video, and I really psyched myself out, because other people were getting good comments too.

Q: Which song did you choose?

A: “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy. I have been playing that song for many years, so it was an obvious choice.

Q: How long have you been playing the piano?

A: I started playing 11 years ago. This is the first time I’ve entered into a national competition of any kind – I used to only perform in competitions in Sacramento.

Q: How did you record your video?

A: At my piano teacher’s house. The first few times I tried using an old camera, but the quality of the video was very bad. I tried using an iPhone, but that didn’t work well either. My final video was recorded using a recording device my teacher owned.

Q: Did finalists travel anywhere for an awards ceremony?

A: No, it was an online-only competition. The winners and finalists were announced on the website on March 16.

Q: Will you enter the competition next year?

A: I would like to enter again. However, the piece I played this year, “Clair de Lune,” was a really familiar piece to me that I have played many times. If I were to enter the competition again, I would need to find another piece that I knew very well.

By Héloïse Schep

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A Sacramento Country Day School Newspaper
Q&A: Sophomore takes first in Music Marvel piano competition after 11 years of tickling the ivories (video included)