Keys to Success
Spotlight Date:August 31, 2015
While many spent their summer relaxing, on vacation, or visiting family, Dreyfoos senior Catherine Zeng studied at not one, but two summer programs: Southeasten Piano Festival in South Carolina and Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina.
“Southeastern Piano Festival was a huge eye opener for me … the quality of playing inspired me tremendously to practice harder. We were also given almost daily masterclasses by Veda Kaplinsky (the chair of piano at Juilliard), had lessons every day from the faculty of the University of South Carolina, and attended concerts by the 2005 Van Cliburn gold and silver medalists every night.”
Eastern Music Festival, the larger of the two programs, was 5 weeks long. Catherine loved being able to learn amongst other orchestra players and under the study of her teacher William Wolfram (bronze medalist of the 1986 Tchaikovsky competition). “I played in a Quintet with two international students and attended world-class concerts every night. One of my favorite memories was going on a road trip to Washington DC to perform at the Kennedy Center as a finalist in the Eastern Piano Solo Competition. I also played with a full orchestra for the first time in Eastern, performing my Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.2 with the Eastern Philharmonic.”
Catherine began playing piano at the age of 7, and although she primarily plays classical music and loves the work of composer Sergei Prokofiev, she also appreciates film scores and making her own arrangements. “Some of my works include Themes and Variations on Mario Bros for 4 hands, Godfather Rhapsody for 2 pianos, Blue Danube Fantasy for 2 pianos, Themes on Girls Just Want to Have Fun for 2 pianos 8 hands & synthesizer, and Impressions on Pulp Fiction for 2 pianos.”
This year, Catherine is not only focusing on piano, but also on her love of politics. Alongside Co-President Ethan Weatherdon, Catherine is heading up the Student Government Association. “I’ve always loved politics and SGA is politics on a local scale. The determination to run however started in middle school; I admired our class president and decided that I also wanted to run one day. It was scary at first … but it’s worth it in the end because SGA puts me in a position where I can make a positive impact on the student body.” Catherine has also volunteered locally for the Palm Beach County Democratic office, Mary Higgin’s campaign, and in US Senator Bill Nelson’s office. Recently, she started a political commentary blog called thethots.com.
Of Dreyfoos, Catherine says that “Dreyfoos gave me friends. I am a HUGE music nerd and Dreyfoos provided an atmosphere to be nerdy in. I remember having discussions with seniors about Beethoven Sonatas as a freshman, something that would’ve never happened in my home school. At Dreyfoos, I have people to relate to and I don’t have to repress my individuality to be someone I’m not. Dreyfoos also gave me TREMENDOUS music opportunities. The piano department gives me time to practice, piano lessons, masterclasses, and performance opportunities. Additionally, the foundation has provided me with scholarships to attend summer music festivals every year since freshman year. Dreyfoos has been pivotal to my musical development.”
Although Catherine used to think her dream school was the University of Pennsylvania, she currently has her eye on Stanford, where she hopes to study music composition, economics, and business. She hopes to pursue a career as an entrepreneur or film scorer.
As for advice for freshmen, Catherine encourages new students to “Experiment and take risks because it’s these crazy ventures that end up being the most meaningful. High school is not something to be afraid of. Trust your gut and try everything.”