Backstage Pass: Tina Zhang

Tina Zhang, second violin, professional headshot.

Backstage Pass: Tina Zhang

Tina Zhang, second violin, with her family.
My grandmother, mom, myself, and my daughter, Hannah.

Tina Zhang has been a violinist with the Houston Symphony since 2011. Prior to joining the orchestra, she received her bachelor’s degree in both music and mathematics at Bard College where she studied with Weigang Li. She went on to complete her master’s degree at Rice University with Cho-Liang Lin.

After starting the violin at age 6 with Keqiang Li in Montreal, Tina placed second in the national round of the Canadian Music Competition at age 11 and made her solo debut a year later with the FACE Symphony Orchestra. She went on to place first in the Canadian Music Competition, the New World Philharmonic Orchestra Competition, and the Montreal Classical Music Festival; she placed third in the HAMS Competition of Chicago.

Tina Zhang, second violin, at Disneyland.
The family at Disneyland this year.

Tina is an active chamber musician and has participated in festivals such as the Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival in Maine; the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan; the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado; the Kent Blossom Music Festival in Ohio; the Académie Domaine Forget in Quebec; and the National Academy Orchestra of Canada in Hamilton, Ontario.

In her spare time, Tina enjoys teaching violin, playing board games, and spending time with her husband and 1-year-old daughter.

Tina Zhang and the second violin section.
Our awesome second violin section after Principal MuChen Hsieh’s solo at Miller Outdoor Theatre this past June.

How did you choose your instrument?
When I was 5, I used to see a violinist sometimes playing at the subway station on my way to kindergarten. Whenever we saw him, my mother and I would stop and watch him, and that would be the highlight of my day. She later took me to see the ballet Sleeping Beauty, and we were seated so high up we could barely see the dancers, but the music—especially those concertmaster solos—made me fall in love with the sound of the violin.

Would you like to share a memorable moment or highlight from your career?
Playing music from E.T. under John Williams himself. He’s one of my favorite composers. It was the last piece of an already-amazing concert. The orchestration is incredible. I love that beginning with the woodwinds, and then that incredible moment when the violins come in with a soaring, singing line that has so much momentum because the percussive accompaniment is still going on beneath it. It’s such a hopeful and magical piece.

Tina Zhang with Houston Symphony musicians.
My baby shower thrown by my Houston Symphony family.

What would you be if you were not a professional musician?
Probably a preschool/elementary teacher of some sort. I enjoy teaching violin to kids, but I guess if I couldn’t teach violin, I’d still enjoy being around kids and seeing the world from their eyes.

What hobbies and interests do you have outside of music?
Playing with my daughter and taking a gazillion videos probably takes up the most time outside of my work hours. I also try to be involved at my church. Aside from that, my husband and I are currently playing a collaborative RPG board game called Gloomhaven with another couple over a glass (or two) or wine; and yes, it is possibly even nerdier than it sounds.

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