Dongguan’s Piano Woman

If you ever have the pleasure of speaking with Jenny Zhang, you will quickly find yourself immersed in conversations about music. Not only is Jenny passionate about music, but her dedication to the craft is simply unmatched.

Jenny’s admirable journey began at the age of four with playing the piano. When asked about why she started playing the piano, she replied, “Because I am an only child, my mother asked me to learn piano and let the piano accompany me as I grow up. Gradually, I liked and then loved music. I became engaged in this profession and then started a business from it.”

Jenny has come a long way from when she first brushed a piano’s keys—she is now a respected celebrity within the Dongguan community and well-known for her prodigious piano skills and music school. Her school, Jazz Up Music Culture Exchange Center, contains an integrated piano program created to teach piano in the best possible way.

“The program has been polished step by step, focusing on students’ comprehensive music literacy. Playing and singing Chinese and English songs as well as improvisation are all courses that are very popular with children in foreign language schools,” Jenny explained.

While she clearly loves teaching and running her school, Jenny didn’t always want to open a music school. “I used to be a middle-level manager in a public institution; however, I wanted to have more life experiences and also wanted to help more piano lovers and enthusiasts like me.” To add on to her fruitful career in the music industry, composing original songs is the source of Jenny’s happiness. She has a song called “Back to You,” in which her American friend and professional musician Brendan helped write the lyrics.

Besides “Back to You,” Jenny has also composed a nursery rhyme called “Chinese Elementary School” for a class in Guancheng Central Elementary School, a Russian song called “Erguna Time” for elderly friends, and rap-inspired “Ode to Wan” and “Xiao Man Jiangcheng” for the Municipal Bureau of Natural Resources in Wanjiang.

One of Jenny’s compositions recently made it to the stage at the Star Theater of Dongguan Cultural Center—a music arrangement of the large-scale children’s musical “Please Help Me Change a Mother.”

Although she has experimented with various styles, jazz remains her absolute favorite due to her admiration of Luo Ning, one of the most famous jazz pianists in China. “I was fortunate enough to perform on the same stage with him,” Jenny said, recalling her joint performance with Luo Ning at Dongguan’s Yulan Theater in 2015. “[The experience] changed my music career and life trajectory.”

In terms of advice for piano novices’ parents, Jenny believes parents shouldn’t force their kids to learn the piano, as it will only drive them away from it. Instead of overly caring about their child’s piano progress, parents should take a step back but still support them. As for piano beginners, she believes students need to study hard and that “it is best for learners to have a passion for music and a spontaneous spirit from beginning to end.”