Senior Allison Zhang performs on a Steinway piano at Carnegie Hall. She was one of 28 performers, many of whom played the piano. However, there were also singers, cellists and guitarists. (Photo used by permission of Zhang)
Senior plays at Carnegie Hall, considers it ‘fitting’ to mark last year of high school
Senior Allison Zhang played at Carnegie Hall on Oct. 14, performing Frederick Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 9, No. 2.
Carnegie Hall is a famous music venue in New York City that has been open since 1891. It’s mission, according to the website, is to “present extraordinary music and musicians.”
Q: How did you get this opportunity?
A: I submitted a recording (of the Nocturne) to the American Fine Arts Festival last year, and then I heard that I was one of the winners and got to play at Carnegie Hall.
Q: What made you decide to play the Nocturne?
A: It was the piece I felt most comfortable with when I had to submit the recording audition.
I also like playing Chopin’s music; I like a lot of Romantic, Impressionist music.
Q: How did you find out you won?
When I submitted to the competition, I wasn’t expecting to win. But then sometime last year, my mom was like, “Hey, what ever happened about that music festival thing?” And so we looked it up, and it turns out, I was one of the winners!
It was crazy because the day we checked the website was the last possible day to confirm and sign up for a concert! But we never got an email or anything, which was annoying because I definitely could have missed the deadline.
I ended up signing up for the October performance date, which wasn’t great because I had to miss a day of school for that date, but it gave me time to practice.
Q: What did your day look like when you arrived in New York?
A: We arrived after a 3-a.m. flight – I do not recommend doing that; it was horrible – and we went to bed immediately. The next day, my parents and I got to explore NYU (New York University) as a side trip.
The day of the concert, we had to arrive an hour and a half early to Carnegie Hall, and as I was waiting to go in, there were two other kids there who looked about 10, and I was really worried that I would be the oldest one there and that there would be all these child prodigies, and I would be the only awkward high school student.
Of course, I wasn’t the only high schooler there. But the younger children all played amazingly as well.
Q: What was it like to perform?
A: It was different since I was used to relaxed, informal, more interactive audiences. I (am a member of) Lifting Spirits with Music, where high school students go to senior homes and perform hour-long music concerts for the residents. That’s a lot of fun and we get to connect with the audience, and it’s very low stakes.
So playing at Carnegie was a really big change; everyone was very professional and the quality of their playing was amazing, and the concert lasted more than two hours.
Q: Were you nervous?
A: I was getting really nervous waiting for my turn. There were 30 people there, and I was put nearly at the end of the program.
(But) it was nice that we were able to hang out backstage. There were two upright pianos back there, and we were able to practice as the other performances happened, so I could stay warmed up and ready to go.
The piano on stage was so good. My piano teacher and her husband, who’s a piano technician, were able to come. After the concert, he was saying how nice of a piano it was and how well the piano managed to hold up after over two hours of playing.
Q: What was the concert hall like?
A: The performers were in the rehearsal room backstage, so I didn’t actually get to see the front a lot, but in general the performance area was really nice. There was a really big stage.
When we went on stage through the side door, I was scared I was going to slip and fall. We had to walk to the piano and back, and everything was on a really smooth wooden stage.
The seating place sat over 200 people in two tiers. We weren’t in the big concert hall, but it was still impressive.
Q: Have you performed at Carnegie Hall before?
A: No, but it seemed very natural to perform there this year. I’ve been playing piano for about 11 years, so playing at Carnegie now is a fitting way to mark my senior year and the end of high school.