An Epic junior high student won first place in the junior piano competition put on by the Oklahoma Philharmonic.
Yihan Zhang, 11, is in the seventh grade and took home the Gilliam Award in the 2022 OKCPHIL Young Musician Competition.
““I was kind of surprised,” Zhang said about winning. While he remains modest about his own talent, he said he was impressed by some of the fellow pianists he was competing against.
To get to the final rounds of the competition, Zhang had to submit recordings and perform in front of judges. For the competition all piano pieces must be memorized. Yihan says that he was worried that he would have a memory slip during his performance.
“It’s always like really scary,” Zhang said. “I think, like, once you start, you like, when you start playing, you get to calm down a little bit.”
Zhang started playing the piano when he was five years old. He said he was first inspired to play the piano after watching the anime show “Your Lie in April.” His mother signed him up for lessons after that.
His mother continues to be an inspiration to his performance. However, Zhang said competitions also bring out his best.
Zhang says he practices the piano one or two hours a day, but when he is preparing for a competition he will spend two or three hours each day practicing.
His time behind the keys has increased since moving to EPIC Charter Schools.
“Because I take online [school] now I have a little bit more like more of a flexible schedule to practice, I think is pretty great.”
Even though he is winning competitions and performing complicated compositions, Zhang said professional pianist isn’t necessarily where he sees his life going.
“I’m planning on going to medical school. I think I kind of want to, you know, make an impact on society.”