'Virtual concert jet-setter' Xian Zhang receives CCM Distinguished Alumni Award

Recently featured by the New York Times, Zhang is Music Director of New Jersey Symphony Orchestra

UC College-Conservatory of Music alumna Xian Zhang (DMA Orchestral Conducting, att. ’98-01) was recently featured by the New York Times as becoming a "virtual concert jet-setter" during the pandemic. In the past year, she has led virtual concerts with the Seattle Symphony, Houston Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, where she is Music Director. 

Zhang is a recipient of the 2021 CCM Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes outstanding professional achievement and engagement with the college by graduates and former students above the age of 40. Fellow 2021 CCM Distinguished Alumni Award award recipients also include Stuart Skelton (MM Voice, ’95) and Diana Maria Riva (BFA Drama, ’91; MFA Theatre Performance, ’95). The awards will be presented as part of CCM's Virtual Graduation Convocation Ceremony, which streams on Saturday, May 1, 2021. 

Xian Zhang

Xian Zhang. Photo/Provided

Xian Zhang currently serves as Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.  Since taking up this position, she has commissioned works from such composers as Thomas Adès, Qigang Chen, Christopher Rouse, Tyshawn Sorey, Vivian Li, Gary Morgan, Christian McBride and Paquito D’Rivera.  She is responsible for introducing an annual Lunar New Year Celebration concert to the orchestra and will remain at the helm of the orchestra through and beyond their 100th anniversary in 2022.

The acclaim she has been receiving for her work in New Jersey has resulted in a strong North American career, with upcoming engagements which include Houston, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Detroit Symphony Orchestras. Last season, she performed with the Dallas, Baltimore, Montreal, Ottawa (NAC) symphony orchestras.  Planned weeks with Chicago Symphony and Cincinnati Symphony have been postponed a season. In August 2019, she returned to Los Angeles Philharmonic to conduct the world premiere of Caroline Shaw’s The Observatory and Beethoven 9.

Xian Zhang’s European engagements this season and next include London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra (Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde), Warsaw Philharmonic and MDR Leipzig. Last season, she conducted the Orchestre National de Lyon at the Paris Philharmonie (Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique), and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France as part of La Folle Journée festival in Nantes.

In the opera world, this season Xian Zhang will conduct Tosca for Cincinnati Opera, and La Traviata for Oslo Opera. Her debuts with Santa Fe opera (world premiere of Huang Ruo’s M. Butterfly in August 2020) and The Metropolitan Opera (La bohème in spring 2021) have been impacted by Covid-19. Previous opera engagements have included Nabucco with Welsh National Opera, Otello with Savonlinna Festival, La Traviata for Den Norske Opera (Oslo), La Bohème for English National Opera and La forza del destino with National Opera, Washington D.C.

Xian Zhang holds the positions of Principal Guest Conductor of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Conductor Emeritus of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, following a hugely successful period from 2009–2016 as Music Director. She has previously served as Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales and was the first female conductor to hold a titled role with a BBC orchestra.  In 2002, she won first prize in the Maazel-Vilar Conductor's Competition. She was appointed New York Philharmonic’s Assistant Conductor in 2002, subsequently becoming their Associate Conductor and the first holder of the Arturo Toscanini Chair. Xian Zhang is an alumna of the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and also of the University of Cincinnati College–Conservatory of Music where she completed her doctorate and served as Music Director of the college’s Concert Orchestra.

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