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Classical innovator: Guitarist Tengyue Zhang likes ‘putting things together in a new way’

Not a day goes by that Tengyue “Ty” Zhang doesn’t play guitar.

The routine started when he was a child.

“When I was little, I did 40 minutes, and then I would rest for 20 minutes,” he says. “In different periods when I’m in school, I can play for five hours. But when I’m on the road, I barely have time to practice, and sometimes I will do it in the airports for at least two to three hours a day.”

Zhang will perform at Keller Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 6. His program will be full of classical guitar standards, as well as originals.

Zhang was born in Hebei, China, where he began to study classical guitar at age 5 with his father.

By age 7, he was introduced to professor Chen Zhi, with whom he studied at the Music School attached to the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing.

In 2012, he was accepted into The Juilliard School undergraduate program, and during his six years of study there with Sharon Isbin, he received his Bachelor of Music in 2016, and his Master of Music in 2018.

“It’s been a lot of fun being able to challenge myself through music,” he says. “Whether it’s a lot of finger patterns or goofing around on guitar, each lesson is important. I don’t compose that much. My favorite is doing arrangements. I think I’m better at arranging than composing.”

One of his most recent arrangements was based on John Williams’ composition for “Schindler’s List.”

“I really enjoy the process of putting things together in a new way,” he says. “I like to represent the guitar in a new way, because a lot of people don’t usually listen to classical guitar. There’s so much you can do with it.”

Though he recently received a master’s degree, Zhang has built up a résumé that most would envy.

In 2017, he received first prize in the Guitar Foundation of American International Concert Artists Competition, known as the most prestigious guitar contest in the world.

He has received first prize in other top competitions, as well, in Austria, China, Russia and the U.S., including the GFA International Competition Senior Division, Austria’s Forum Gitarre Wien International Youth Competition, the Changsha International Guitar Competition, the 2017 Schadt String Competition, and the 2017 Alexander Frauchi International Competition in Moscow.

“I love to perform and showcase all of the hard work I put in,” he says. “I’m able to travel the world and perform for people. That’s exhilarating. I look forward to being in Albuquerque to perform.”

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