By Collin Breaux
Aja Zou has been playing piano for about 10 years.
Aja will further develop her skills when she participates in the National YoungArts Week in January 2023—a prestigious program that she learned she had qualified for this year.
“I feel beyond honored and blessed,” Aja said of being selected as a finalist and getting to soon learn from high-level musicians and artists. “I’m so excited to meet my fellow finalists and pianists.”
The San Juan Capistrano teenager is one of only four young pianists who qualified for the program, which was established in 1981 by Lin and Ted Arison to nurture creatively inclined youngsters.
Aja learned she had qualified when getting a call from the program while in the middle of class. She was surprised, because she initially assumed she was merely being asked about her application.
Young artists have to apply for YoungArts Week through a competitive process that involves panel judges. Aja is no stranger to this, having previously participated in other piano competitions.
This year’s YoungArts Week will be held in Miami.
Aja began playing the piano when she was 6 years old. She got into it, because her mom used to play piano music on CDs when driving her around, and Aja would hum along. Aja’s mom subsequently signed her up for lessons.
“I enjoyed playing it every single day,” Aja said. “I could feel the music move my body.”
Aja—who is in 11th grade at Sage Hill School, a private high school in Newport Coast—aims to practice about an hour or more every day. Her rule of thumb is to play until she has mastered a piece.
She tries to stay focused when she is on stage or merely practicing.
“I try to imagine the music,” Aja said. “I try to imagine images in my mind that come from the music.”
Additionally, Aja will play at Carnegie Hall in New York City in summer 2023.
Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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