As with so much in 2021, I find myself reflecting on the year that has passed and I’d like to share a very happy memory of around a year ago, just before our lives changed due to the global pandemic.
Picture Cardiff in spring and a young 16 year-old percussionist playing his carefully selected pieces in front of TV cameras and a select audience of professional musicians, music teachers and of course the judges. This was the exciting experience I shared with Fang Zhang. I was lucky enough to be Fang’s guardian and besides being a polite, kind and fun person to spend time with, Fang is an incredibly gifted percussionist who was studying at Chethams School of Music in Manchester.
It came as no surprise that Fang had excelled in the auditions for one of the most well-known UK competitions, the BBC Young Musician of the Year. He had been invited to the quarter finals at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.
We travelled by train after a shaky, late start and as soon as we arrived in Cardiff, we dashed up to the venue to be warmly welcomed by the BBC and their chaperone. Fang was so well looked after all the time he was there – delicious food, rest before he performed as well as time spent with a psychologist to ensure he was settled in such a busy environment.
After heading into ‘Wardrobe and Make-up’ Fang emerged transformed with an awesome haircut, a freshly-pressed shirt and trousers and went on to perform his dress rehearsal with professionalism, enthusiasm and precision. I have to tell you, I was blown away at how incredible his performance was. I kept my fingers crossed that he could do the same under the pressure of the live competition which was taking place and being filmed later that evening.
Fang’s fellow competitors were excellent – original, well-rehearsed and determined too. However, watching all of the performances, I felt certain that Fang had the edge.
When the announcement came that Fang had won the round – the place was filled with applause and cheering. I wondered how Fang must have been feeling and he astounded me. With the cameras in front of him and his teachers celebrating in the background, Fang, true to character, was composed, modest and quietly thanked his parents, his music teacher in China who inspired him to play and all of the teachers at Chethams who had helped him to succeed. Fang’s generous comments underpinned how much he valued the team effort that goes into education and performances like this and it was clear how lucky and grateful he felt to be on such a journey. Well done Fang!