Juilliard Pre-college just enrolled a seven-year-old talent

May 18 22:31 2022

There is no musician anywhere performing at the highest, most serious levels who is unaware that the Juilliard School in New York City is as rigorous and respected a performing arts conservatory as any currently operating on planet earth. Regarded as the Harvard of the field of musical arts, the prestigious institution requires applicants to pass an entrance examination as challenging as that of any music school in the world, such that from among hundreds of applicants annually, the acceptance rate at the pre-college division of Juilliard is a mere five to eight percent.

This year, however, despite its exacting standards, the school has admitted for pre-college study an exceptionally gifted seven-year-old piano prodigy, Lincoln Zhao, the youngest student Juilliard has ever enrolled. His arrival has created a sensation in the New York music community, and observers are using the term “genius.”


Lincoln performing at a nursing home in New York at age 5

It was at the age of four that Lincoln first enrolled in musical courses at the Musart Music School on Long Island. For Qi Zhang, the academy’s founder, and for all the faculty members there, young Lincoln’s presence at Musart was immediately and remains an enormous source of pride.

“I instantly sensed Lincoln’s talent the first time I met him. Lincoln’s parents are senior pianists and they have taught him the basics of scales. In his first class, he played scales one after another on the piano at a very steady pace. To be proficient at scales is a must when learning a musical instrument and also often the most boring part. Since Lincoln was just a four-year-old boy, the perseverance and patience he showed in the process are even more respectable than his talent,” said Qi, Lincoln’s piano instructor. “I told his parents that he would be able to play pieces that they cannot in only about two years. His parents were not sure that a six- or seven-year-old kid could be better than adults who have been practicing piano for more than a decade. But it turns out now he really did it, and it’s just amazing.”


Qi Zhang instructing Lincoln

The classical music field is competitive, demanding, and sometimes harsh. The quest to reach the top can be lonely, and success is certainly not guaranteed. Which renders Lincoln’s perseverance an even more applaudable strength. So many musicians quit their instrument because they cannot bear the loneliness of the piano practice-room, but Lincoln has persisted, and he has become a true miracle.

Lincoln practicing before the entrance exam

Lincoln’s father explains: “The pieces he chose for the [entrance] exam are pretty hard, including Bach French Suite No 6, Mozart Sonata K330 and Chopin Etude Op 10 No 8. All these pieces are for adults and hence are huge challenges for him in regard both to skill and musicality.

“Lincoln’s enrollment into the Juilliard School is not only a credit to his piano skills, but also marks a new journey to musical art for him. At Juilliard Pre-college, he will join his excellent fellow students in advanced courses lectured by masters, and his academic background will sharply improve.” It would be a dream coming true if Lincoln one day could study at Harvard University and have Yoyo Ma as his alumnus.

So far, Lincoln is the third student from Musart to be admitted by world-renowned Juilliard pre- college. His success, naturally, means a great deal to Musart.

“It is such an honor to help more and more kids realize their music dreams. And because of those kids’ excellence, a lot more parents are starting to know our team, our culture, and our philosophy,” said Qi. To provide every music-loving young person the best education, Qi joined forces with talented instructors from some of the best music schools such as Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute of Music (Lang Lang’s alma mater) and adapted his syllabus using principles of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and the Central Conservatory of Music, the two leading arts universities in China. At Musart, he has forged a systematic, quality curriculum. In 2018, the Musart Music School was founded and since then has cultivated nearly 400 students and young talents, many of whom have already enrolled in prestigious music programs. Last year, piano student Carrie and viola student Lisa were also accepted into the Juilliard School’s Pre-College Division, and over ten students made it into Pre-college Program of the top-flight Manhattan School of Music. In addition, numerous Musart students have excelled in a variety of competitions around the globe. 

Since its founding, Musart has held ten concerts in New York and will deliver the first in-person concert at Adelphi University Performing Arts Center Concert Hall later this month. Tickets for the show were all but sold out within the first week of having been put on sale.

Photo of Lang Lang and Qi Zhang after th concert in Long Island

In that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused immeasurable loss to the entire world, physical courses such as those developed by Musart have been compromised from the very beginning. Musart was forced to switch to online classes. Faculty designed different curricula for students based on their varied needs during different phases so as to optimize every course, cultivate students’ musicality, and enhance their skills.

Arts know no boundaries. During the pandemic, the world stays motionless and people cannot travel to meet each other in real world, but young artists never stop on their journey, where they are determined both to make music and to cherish it. Where would we be without the arts?

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