This is the ninth installment of a new chapter in our Student Features series on the blog that we will be posting leading up to the 2017 Music for All National Festival, presented by Yamaha. Music for All will be featuring three honor ensembles (Honor Band of America, Honor Orchestra of America, and the Jazz Band of America) at the Music for All National Festival, March 9th through March 11th. We look forward to getting to know all of these wonderful students who have been accepted into these prestigious ensembles!


Name: Austin Zhang

Hometown: Plano, TX

School Name: Plano West Senior High School

Instrument: Alto Saxophone

Which Ensemble Are You In?
Jazz Band of America

What made you decide to apply to be a part of the ensemble?
The opportunity to play with students from across America who are as passionate about music like I am makes this festival unique. The guest soloists and directors that the Jazz Band of America has every year are incredibly inspiring as well.

What are three things you’ve learned from being involved in band or orchestra?
1. Appreciation for directors and peers
2. The ability to work with/deal with lots of different type of people
3. Time management/Keeping commitments

Most memorable moment in band or orchestra?
Not really a specific moment, but I am currently the assistant director of the jazz band at the middle school I attended. Seeing them grow personally and musically has been so rewarding to me and has made me realize how far I’ve come in just the past few years.

Besides band/orchestra, what are you involved in at school?
Not much school-wise, but I play in several cover bands, big bands, and small jazz combos outside of school that occupies a lot of my time.

What book have you read that you would recommend?
Lush Life – A Biography of Billy Strayhorn
Fascinating facts about the life of a hugely influential, yet largely under-appreciated composer.

What’s your favorite song or piece of music?
Jacob Collier – In The Real Early Morning

Favorite ice cream flavor?
Mint Chocolate Chip

What’s your favorite non-music related hobby or past time?
Community service/volunteering

What’s one piece of advice you’d give a friend who needs some inspiration or motivation?
“If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at 2 a.m. someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 p.m. someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again, will depend partly on how well you do your craft.” – Karl Paulnack

What’s your current plan for what you want to do after graduating high school?
Attend a music conservatory (hopefully Manhattan School of Music *fingers crossed*) and pursue a degree in Jazz Studies.

Have you participated in MFA/BOA events before? Which ones?
Jazz Band of America (2016)

Tell us something interesting/unique about you:
I run a non-profit organization called Music Above All that provides free instruments, lessons, and concerts for disadvantaged kids in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.