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Fifth grade flutist finds international success

by | May 1, 2024 | Featured, Featured: Features

Xiuhan Zhu

Xiuhan Zhu recently performed at Carnegie Hall, his second appearance at the New York City landmark.

In March, he was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall as the result of a near perfect score and first-place finish in the junior division of the Crescendo International Music Competition.

The previous summer, he showcased his flute playing at Weill Recital Hall, also in Carnegie Hall.

Other achievements include second place and audience award winner in the 2022 Red Maple Music Competition in Canada and gold prizes in both the 2023 Global Genius Music Competition and the London Young Musician Competition.

What is particularly remarkable about these accomplishments is that the flute-playing musician, Xiuhan Zhu, is 9 years old and a fifth grader at Hopkins Elementary School.

“It was not that scary,” Zhu said of his latest Carnegie Hall appearance, which took place in Zankel Hall, one of three concert venues inside the iconic New York City facility. “My mom was there, and honestly, I kind of liked it.”

His mother, Wen Shi, accompanied him on piano (“in a beautiful dress,” according to her son). She said she felt very proud of the way he handled what could be a daunting situation.

“He had confidence this time. He may be a little nervous, but he enjoys the stage,” Shi said.

A pianist, Shi noted she went to music halls to hear recitals when she was younger and may have passed along advice about music to her son.

Zhu only began playing two years ago and takes private lessons once per week with Shan Liu.

He practices about 90 minutes each day and performs with his school band as well as “outside” groups such as the Preparatory Winds of the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Junior Massachusetts New England Concertino Orchestra, for whom he is the sole fifth grader in the ensemble of sixth through ninth graders.

After playing on stages multiple times, Zhu has grown accustomed to the spotlight and describes it as “really great.” His recent performance at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall enabled him to see other musicians in action.

“Everyone was really talented,” he observed.

Although he tried violin and realized the sound was not for him, Zhu recently also started playing piano. However, flute is his primary instrument. His mother reported that he picks up music quickly and easily. His teacher said when she gives him music to practice, he plays it perfectly, so she can move on and give him new pieces to work on.

“Every week he teaches me something new,” Shi noted. “It’s a very good way for him to make progress [too].”

Shi said her son enjoys playing music with orchestras, performing at community nursing homes and sharing it with friends.

Zhu noted when he is not busy with music, he enjoys swimming in the pool and playing tennis. Like other fifth graders, he also likes spending time with his friends.

Although he has many years to decide, Zhu stated that he wants to become a scientist one day.

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