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In Studio A with Yizhang Qiang

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Interlochen Arts Academy junior Yizhang Qiang performs in the Music Center at Interlochen Center for the Arts with collaborative pianist Ya-Ju Chuang

Yes, we're calling it "In Studio A with" even though it took place across the street from IPR at the Music Center at Interlochen Center for the Arts.

But IPR's Studio A is too small for the five timpani required to play the Concerto no. 1 for Timpani and Orchestra by William Kraft.

So we headed over to the Music Center for this performance by Interlochen Arts Academy junior Yizhang Qiang.

The piece requires not only five timpani but also four kinds of mallets. The timpanist also makes at least 20 tuning changes and adds and removes felt muffles several times during the performance.

Yizhang said another challenge of playing this piece was learning to play with a pianist. "I've played a lot of solos, and for a percussionist, we're not used to playing with other instruments," he explained. "The first time I rehearsed with my pianist Ya-Ju [Chuang], I was super loud. I couldn't hear the piano, and I don't think Ya-Ju could hear herself."

He quickly learned how to perform well with a collaborative pianist, though. Watch a short excerpt of his performance below to see for yourself.

Yizhang wanted to come to Interlochen after he met Keith Aleo in Shanghai. "He was my first teacher who wasn't from China," Yizhang said. "He's super cool, and I wanted to learn with him. So I followed him here."

Although he started here as a freshman, Yizhang missed last year because it was too difficult to travel to the United States due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He's a junior now and already looking forward to his senior year. "I'm looking for a piece for fourteen timpani, but Mr. Aleo thinks I'm crazy," he explained, laughing.

Listen to his interview and the performance of the complete concerto movement on demand above.

This session was engineered by Stefan Wiebe.

Dr. Amanda Sewell is IPR's music director.