Eugene Zhang | Stingray Rising Stars | Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra 2020

By: FrédériqueThu, 05/14/2020
Eugene Zhang

For more than 45 years, the TSYO has been dedicated to providing a high-level orchestral experience for talented young musicians aged 22 and under. The TSYO program delivers a unique, powerful, and life-enriching opportunity that encourages significant achievement, regardless of the career path participants choose. The TSYO has a close affiliation with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra: TSO musicians serve as coaches through the season, TSO guest artists lead masterclasses for TSYO members, and the TSYO performs annually with the TSO in a side-by-side concert at Roy Thomson Hall.

TSYO Stingray Rising Stars  

The talented 16-year-old Eugene Zhang won the $1000 prize to contribute towards advancing his career. Candidates for the award were judged on demonstrated leadership within the orchestra, artistic excellence, overall improvement, and how they would use the prize money and exposure to further their musical career. Applications were judged by the TSYO faculty, made up of the TSYO Manager, TSYO Conductor, and members of the TSO who act as teachers and mentors.

About the winner: Eugene Zhang

Eugene is a 16-year-old double bassist, currently studying with Michael Chiarello. He attends Earl Haig Secondary School and participates in the Earl Haig Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Strings ensemble, and various extracurricular choirs and jazz ensembles. He has played in masterclasses with legendary bassists Joel Quarrington, Ali Yazdanfar, and Jeffrey Beecher.

We sat down with Eugene to tell us more about his win:

What is your earliest artistic memory?

I had my first piano lesson in 2010, and I have to admit I did not fall in love with it at first! I played around with a magnetic music staff with detachable notes, not even knowing what they meant, but it was fun enough for me to continue learning. I am forever grateful for my first piano teacher, Calvin Cheng, and his family for being so kind, as I would have quit on day one if it wasn't for their support.

When did you decide you wished to become an artist professionally?

I always had an interest in music, but my moment of "crystallization" came at Orford Music Academy in summer 2019. It was my first time being surrounded by that many aspiring basses alongside Joel Quarrington, one of our instrument's masters. Hearing their stories and being in that environment of bassists inspired me and made clear the life I wanted to achieve.

Who and what are your main influences?

My bass teacher Michael Chiarello has been a huge influence on my development as a bassist and musician. We see music in similar ways, so working with him feels natural. He has taught me so much regarding technique, musicality, and the professional world, and I look forward to continuing studying with him! Another one of my greatest influences right now is Jacob Collier. Although I may never approach his level of musical genius, I strive to emulate his fearlessness in his creativity and expressing who he is.

How did you come to be part of the TSYO?

My first TSYO audition was for the 2016/17 season. The TSYO had recently gone tuition-free, and my teacher Ching-Ping Lin suggested I should give it a try. The idea of the program was daunting to me - I had seen a TSYO concert before, and the level of playing and musicality was almost intimidatingly high - but I figured there was nothing to lose. I was fortunate enough to be accepted on my first audition, so that was a decision that changed my life forever.

What do you plan to do with the prize money?

Part of the prize will go towards tuition fees for upcoming summer programs and festivals. Since many programs are being canceled or moved online due to the lockdown, I plan to invest part of the prize into software upgrades to create and share more music digitally.

For more information regarding the Stingray Rising Stars program, click here.

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