Young virtuoso Kevin Zhu shines at Juilliard

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) — At Eyewitness News, we’re right across the street from Manhattan’s famed Juilliard School, where some of the best young actors, dancers, and musicians train for greatness.

It’s a place where stars are born, and Juilliard is where we find young classical violinist Kevin Zhu, who is already making his mark on the world stage.

Listening to him play in the small confines of an apartment on the Upper West Side is a revelation.

“There’s a level of inescapable drive and passion,” he said. “It has to overtake your life almost. It has to become something that you’re absolutely obsessed about.”

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When Zhu started playing as a toddler, the instrument was almost as big as he was. Today, he’s a senior at Juilliard studying with the likes of the legendary Itzhak Perlman.

After he won the Paganini Competition in Genoa, Italy, he was allowed to play a violin owned by the legendary 19th century virtuoso.

He will use this same violin to record Paganini’s famed 24 Caprices, and this marks the first time it has ever been done.

“I was just very impressed with what he can do and the sound he produced, the music he made, and the technical abilities all together,” said violinist Mira Wang, who was a judge during the preliminary rounds of the Paganini Competition.

Wang is a world-class violinist and recording artist who is married to the cellist Jan Vogler, and she has agreed to serve as Zhu’s mentor — to pass the torch and help keep the flame of this music alive.

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His ability is so extraordinary that Zhu is allowed to practice and perform with a Stradivarius violin that is 300 years old, very rare and extremely valuable.

“The main responsibility of an artist is to carry the legacy of those before us and to innovate,” Zhu said. “We have to ask the question of how do we respect what’s been done before, but also how do we bridge it to the next generation?”

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