National recognition for young Birmingham pianist


Birmingham pianist Lauren Zhang has been named as a finalist in the prestigious BBC Young Musician competition, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2018.

Lauren impressed the judges during the regional auditions in late 2017 and is now one of five musicians to have progressed to the Keyboard Category Final. All five Category Finals – strings, keyboard, woodwind, percussion and brass – will take place in Birmingham between Friday 16 and Tuesday 20 March 2018.

Junior Conservatoire

The 16-year-old musician studies at the Junior Conservatoire, part of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, with the music and acting college also hosting the Category Finals of the competition, as well as the Semi Final on Friday 23 March.


Birmingham City University

The Final will take place at Symphony Hall Birmingham, led by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Mark Wigglesworth on Sunday 13 May. The competition will be broadcast on BBC television and BBC Radio 3.

Lauren Zhang said:

“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.”

Lauren is taught by Dr Robert Markham at the Junior Conservatoire, who himself was a finalist in the BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition in 1986, where he was awarded the Piano Prize. Lauren also studies violin at the Junior Conservatoire under Sam Mason.

Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at three years old 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.

Specialist training

The Junior Conservatoire offers specialist training to young musicians between the ages of four and 18 with exceptional potential and the ability to achieve that potential. They train 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 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 (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.


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