Play it again, Catherine

Violin virtuoso Catherine Zhang of Year 9 took her violin to the USA for the spring term break.

She had been invited to private masterclasses with Simon James at Seattle’s Coleman Violin Studio. Despite eschewing the formal examination structure of the AMEB (Australian Music Examination Board), Catherine easily performs the famous (and demanding) Tchaikovsky and Sibelius Violin Concertos.

With several two-hour lessons and masterclasses in Seattle now under her belt, Catherine says she has learnt a new way of playing – the American way.

“In Australia the way of playing is softer but over there they play an open and broad sound because their concert halls are huge”, Catherine said.

Catherine learned from Simon James how to use gravity, not strength, in her playing. The resulting sound is “not forced but natural”, she says.

With an unwavering ambition to become a professional musician, Catherine has her sights set on eventually returning to America for further study because “everyone knows it’s the place to go for music”.

Despite her wonderful experience in Seattle, Catherine says the highlight of her performance career so far has been playing Ross Edwards’ “Maninyas” Violin Concerto Second Movement at the base of Uluru in the Northern Territory in July.

“It was a really special experience for me and the first time I had played an Australian composition.”

This performance was conducted by Mrs Karen Carey as part of Santa Sabina College’s “On the Northern Track” tour. The all-Australian program was performed by the students in iconic locations for a variety of audiences including Indigenous communities. Also participating in the tour were film directors Bob Connelly and Sophie Raymond, creators of the award-winning documentary, Mrs Carey’s Concert. Connelly’s forthcoming film of the Northern Track trip will feature excerpts of Catherine’s performances. (The film is currently in production and a public première at Santa Sabina College will be announced soon).

Catherine’s current violin teacher is her dad, former Beijing Symphony Orchestra member Bruce Yang and her favourite composer is Tchaikovsky because, as Catherine says, “all his music is really majestic”.