Senior Elizabeth Zietz’s vibrant and cheerful personality make her popular among her high school peers. But there’s more to Zietz than her friendly smile; her intensity and virtuosity behind the piano has earned her a reputation among the nation’s greatest student musicians, having been prestigiously named one of eight Young Scholars of the Lang Lang International Music Foundation. This month, The Howler had the opportunity to chat with Zietz about the impact of piano on her life.
Andy Lee and Matthew Tang: How and when did you first get into piano?
Elizabeth Zietz: Ever since I was young, my parents would take me to concerts that filled me with inspiration and a passion for music. I began learning piano when I was six with my beloved first teacher Claudia Xi. Through her, I began to fall in love with the piano and its soulful aspects—creating images, connecting to emotions and telling stories.
AL and MT: What does your practice schedule look like? How do you balance piano with your other responsibilities?
EZ: My practice schedule varies every day, based on upcoming music events, school activities and other commitments. I try to squeeze in practice time whenever possible. Although it can get busy, I am thankful that I have this balance, because music is my safe haven, constantly renewing me with joy and imagination.
AL and MT: What does music mean to you?
EZ: To me, music is an unquantifiable blend of humanity. It requires many aspects, including sincerity, sensitivity, creativity and vulnerability. I believe music has the power to sweep us from our earthly lives and bring us into a state of transcendence, a new world in which we can freely create and dream. My deep love for music drives my piano playing.
AL and MT: What are some of your favorite or most memorable performances?
EZ: This past January, I had an unforgettable time performing two concerts at Carnegie Hall. The first concert was at Stern Auditorium: Grammy Salute to Classical Music – Celebrating the Legacy of Leonard Bernstein, which marked the return of the Grammy Awards to New York and Leonard Bernstein’s centennial. The second concert, at Weill Recital Hall, was my graduation recital as a 2016-2018 Young Scholar of the Lang Lang International Music Foundation. As a Lang Lang Young Scholar, I’ve had the exhilarating experience of sharing music around the world. I’ve witnessed music’s extraordinary power to connect and help communities.
AL and MT: What musicians do you admire or look up to and why?
EZ: Some of my favorite musicians are Sergei Babayan, Evgeny Kissin, Grigory Sokolov and Lang Lang. Babayan’s otherworldly tones, Kissin’s brilliant colors, Sokolov’s mystical and poetic intensity and Lang Lang’s deep musicality speak to me about the beauty of music. I greatly admire Lang Lang for his role not only as a pianist but also as an educator, peace ambassador and philanthropist. I also dearly look up to my teacher Dr. Grace Fong. She is a multifaceted artist who can create miracles in the music. She has taught me to search for these moments and create music that is devoted to the composer’s intentions yet filled with original feeling and spontaneity.