Nation's piano teacher

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As a student of the middle school affiliated to the Central Conservatory of Music, Sheng started to learn to play the piano with Zhou from 1987-91.From 1991-97, Sheng studied at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City as a scholarship student of Solomon Mikowsky, where he completed his bachelor's and master's degrees of music.

"Zhou helped me to level up my skills, to find my direction as a pianist, and achieve freedom in creativity," recalls Sheng.

Sheng can still recall that in one winter before the final exam, he made a request to Zhou that he wanted to play Tchaikovsky's Dumka, Op 59 and the Chinese piano piece, A Hundred Birds Paying Respect to the Phoenix, during the final exam.

"Usually teachers assigned music pieces to students during final exams. It was the first time that I made a request to my teacher and surprisingly, she agreed. I was so happy that I practiced very hard. I got a high score," says Sheng. "I am a teacher now and her teaching approaches influenced me very much. I often feel inspired when I think of her warmth and support, which were crucial for a young pianist."

Pianist Wang Xiaohan freely admits that he was a rebellious adolescent when he was 15 and a student at the middle school affiliated to the Central Conservatory of Music.

During that difficult period, he became a student of Zhou, who gave him a lot of personal space to freely select repertoires and choose competitions that he wanted to participate in. Within two years, Wang gradually regained his confidence and joy in playing.

"It was a turning point for me. As a teacher, she was amiable and always encouraged me. I felt relaxed and secure when I was studying with her," recalls Wang.

At the age of 17, he participated in the ARD International Music Competition held in Munich, Germany, as the youngest performer that year, and won third place in the competition.

"During the semifinal, I insisted on playing Schubert's Piano Sonata D 95, though Zhou suggested that I play Schumann's Carnival. She supported me and gave me a piece of paper before I played during the semifinal, telling me to be confident and relaxed. 'Everything will be fine,' she said," recalls Wang. "I will never forget her words, which helped me to fully enjoy music and be creative."

In 1998, Wang was admitted to the Hannover Conservatory of Music. He received his PhD degree from the Hochschule fur Musik und Theater Hannover, with a perfect score in academic performance, the first in the university's history. Now, Wang is a faculty member, teaching the piano at Tianjin Juilliard School, the first overseas campus of the New York-based Juilliard School.

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