The Violin Channel recently caught up 2019 Zhuhai International Mozart Competition for Young Musicians Senior Category 1st Prize Winner, 18-year-old Simon Zhu from Germany.
A student of Professors Koh Gabriel Kameda and Tomasz Tomaszewski, Simon is a former 1st prize winner at the Kloster Schöntal and Valsesia Musica International Violin Competitions.
SIMON ZHU | MOZART VIOLIN CONCERTO NO. 5 IN A MAJOR | 1ST MVT | SALZBURG CHAMBER SOLOISTS | 2019 ZHUHAI INTERNATIONAL MOZART COMPETITION FOR YOUNG MUSICIANS | 1ST PRIZE
Simon, How does it feel to be a 1st prize winner at the Zhuhai International Mozart Competition?
"Of course I feel very happy and very honored.
It was a big surprise for me to win this competition because the level of playing was unbelievably high.
I am also deeply grateful to my parents, my teachers, Florian Leonhard who loaned me a violin for the competition, the organizers of the competition and all my friends who supported me during my preparation for the competition.
Sadly, I didn’t have the time to stay in the state because the competition was during school and I need to catch up in a lot of subjects.
(I’m in last year of high school right now)"
What will be your best long lasting memory from your time at the competition?
"I had many great moments in Zhuhai so it is hard to choose one.
I think the most memorable thing was to finally be able to play the violin in the beautiful city of Zhuhai.
I haven’t been to China for 7 years. Most of my relatives live in China and I haven’t met them for many years.
For the finals, my grandparents, my aunt and my little cousin booked a flight to Zhuhai and came to listen.
I was really happy to finally see them again and I think it was the first time that they've heard me play live.
We had a wonderful time together"
What are the most important lesson you feel you've learnt from your preparation for this particular competition?
"I think the most important lesson I learned from my preparation is that you always have to keep your program 'fresh'.
For a competition, I practice pieces much longer and more intensely than for a concert because there is much more pressure on you and you need to be sure that everything goes well.
But sometimes, you reach a point where you don’t want to practice the same pieces again and again anymore, so you always need to find ways to rediscover these pieces.
In my opinion, the most important thing is to still feel the joy of playing music"
What tips and advice do you have for keeping one’s focus on the music even under the stressful situation of a competition?
"For me, it always helps me to talk with friends and family - and I always try to talk to other competitors to get to know them.
I don’t want to be isolated in my own 'bubble' - which can happen very fast.
I also think it is really important to keep in mind that you're playing music for an audience who also wants to enjoy the music.
The jury members are also just people who like to listen to music.
That’s why I always try to remind myself that I need to enjoy and play the music like I was playing a normal concert"
Who have been your most influential mentors and inspirations?
"I think my most important mentors are, Professor Tomasz Tomaszewski, Professor Koh Gabriel Kameda and Ning Feng.
Professor Tomaszewski has shown me how to be a musician not only on the violin but also as a person. He is like a musical father to me.
Professor Kameda has taught me a lot of musical and technical things and I am so grateful that he brought me to a new level of music and violin playing.
I have known Ning Feng since I was 13 and he always watched over my progress and has given me a lot of advices which are still very important to me"
What important piece of advice have your learnt from your mentors that you’d like to pass on?
"Maybe the most important advice for a competition was by Professor Igor Ozim. He told me that 'you need to be confident if you play for a competition'.
He said that when you are preparing for a competition, you need to have first place as your goal.
Not because you want to play better than the other competitors, but because you want to get the best out of yourself so you are satisfied with your performance no matter what the outcome"
Away from your instrument, what do you like to do to keep your sanity?
"Maybe I am not sane at all ...
No seriously, it is easy to become trapped in the cage of the violin world.
I always use my breaks or free time to do some things that have nothing to do with classical music - like listening to other genres like film music, jazz or rock (I love Queen), playing video games (probably too much), and watching movies and TV shows.
I also enjoy going to eat with friends because I love good food.
Even if I don’t have that much time, I still do these things because it helps to keep my mind clear.
I also think it helps you as a person and musician to look outside the box"
What does your future hold now? What are your career goals?
"Firstly, I need to finish my high school exams and I am excited to go to college next year.
I want to learn as much as I can because I am still young and it is important to never stop learning.
I also want to travel to as many countries as possible and play my music there.
I love traveling, discovering and experiencing different cultures (and of course taste their food).
I hope I will be able to gain many exciting experiences so I can grow as a person and musician"