Royal Birmingham Conservatoire pianist named BBC Young Musician 2018

Lauren Zhang 1

A 16-year-old pianist who studies at Birmingham City University’s Royal Birmingham Conservatoire has been named as the winner of BBC Young Musician

After impressing the judges at both the Keyboard Category Final and Semi-Final earlier this year, Lauren Zhang secured the top title in the Final of the prestigious national competition, which was held in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall on Sunday 13 May.

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

Birmingham City University

Lauren performed Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) and the renowned British conductor Mark Wigglesworth. Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2018, the competition was broadcast on BBC Four and BBC Radio 3.

Junior Conservatoire

Lauren studies at the Junior Conservatoire, which is part of the new £57 million Royal Birmingham Conservatoire at Birmingham City University.   

Professor Julian Lloyd Webber, Principal, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, said:

“Having spent a lifetime making music with some of the world’s finest musicians I can honestly say that Lauren is up there with the best – she is a total phenomenon.”

The music and acting college also hosted all five Category Finals – Strings, Keyboard, Woodwind, Percussion and Brass – of this year’s BBC Young Musician, as well as the Semi-Final, which was broadcast on Friday 11 May.

An American-born Chinese student, Lauren is taught by Dr Robert Markham at the Junior Conservatoire, who himself was a finalist in the BBC Young Musician competition in 1986, where he was awarded the Piano Prize. Lauren also studies violin at the Junior Conservatoire under Sam Mason.

Specialist training

The Junior Conservatoire offers specialist training to young musicians between the ages of four and 18 with Lauren Zhang 2exceptional potential and the ability to achieve that potential. It trains young musicians to a level where they could gain a place at a senior conservatoire or music college, as well as offer preparation for the Associated Board exams to Grade 8 and Diploma levels.

Lauren added:

“The fantastic musical education, supportive environment and long-lasting friendships that I have made at the Junior Conservatoire have always inspired me and immensely helped my musical development.”

Originally born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at age three Lauren moved with her family to Charleston, Illinois, when she began to learn piano and violin from the age of four. She was taught piano for four and a half years by Madeline Ignazito – Lauren was her last pupil before she retired – and Terry Coulton – still an active musician in Charleston – taught Lauren violin for three and a half years.

Lauren applied for the Junior Conservatoire in 2010 while her mother, Hui, was taking a sabbatical year in Birmingham. Despite planning to return to the USA, after Lauren began working with Dr Markham her family decided to remain in the UK as a result of what Hui calls “the power of music tuition at the Junior Conservatoire.”

Since studying at the Junior Conservatoire, Lauren has enjoyed musical guidance under Terry Coulton, Kenneth Hamilton, Madeline Ignazito and Rebecca Omordia.  


Lauren achieved distinction in the Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music exam in piano performance and the Licentiate of Trinity College London in violin performance respectively, at the age of 12. She achieved the fellowship of Trinity College London in piano recital at the age of 13.

Lauren has won many classes at local, regional and national festivals and competitions. In 2016, she was the first prize winner of the 15th Ettlingen International Piano Competition. She was also a prize winner at the Young Pianist of the North International Competition in 2015. She won the first prize of the European Piano Teacher Association Lauren Zhang 3(UK) in the 15 years and under category in 2015. She also secured third place in the Beethoven Intercollegiate Junior Piano Competition at the Austrian Cultural Forum London in 2015.

In 2016, Lauren was awarded the first prize in the prestigious Emanuel Piano Trophy which is open to the winner of the top senior piano award at any music festival held in the previous year.

The competition was adjudicated by Christopher Elton, Professor Emeritus of the Royal Academy of Music, who said of her performance of Ravel:

“She played a remarkable ‘Scarbo’ and was really impressive – not just her virtuosity, but the ability to make the piece sound ‘French’ and to play with subtlety.”

Lauren is interested in history, biology and physics and in her spare time she enjoys reading, fencing and chamber music.

BBC Young Musician is a part of the BBC’s ongoing commitment to supporting and providing a platform for new and emerging talent.

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