Our December NVMTA Spotlight teacher is Dr. Ying Zhao.  She is a music educator, active solo and collaborative pianist. Dr. Zhao holds a Master of Music degree in Piano Performance and Pedagogy, and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Piano Performance from Pennsylvania State University, where she also served as a teaching assistant and rehearsal pianist. Her primary teachers include Steven Smith, Marylène Dosse and Lanlan Guo. She also played in a master class of Jerome Lowenthal, Leon Fleisher, Boris Slutsky and Richard Becker. An active performer, Dr. Zhao has appeared on stages throughout United States and China, including San Francisco State University, California State University Fullerton, Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco, Beijing Normal University, Xiamen University, Pittsburgh Heinz Hall, Library of Congress, Penn State’s President’s Concert, Garcia Piano Competition, National City Christian Church, and Mayflower Music Festival.



Dr. Zhao grew up in the mid region of China, and spent her undergraduate study in Beijing Normal University. She was close to one of the voice teachers so she spent a lot of time in her studio accompanying her and her students. She was also in a chamber music group of Chinese instruments and went to perform in Utah and California. After coming to Penn State, part of her graduate teaching assistant job included rehearsal and performing pianist for the opera house. Also, she was hired by many of the instrumental students for their jury or graduate recitals. As part of her DMA requirements, she did two chamber recitals: one was a duo and trio concert with strings, the other one was Messiaen’s two piano work Visions de l’Amen (powerful and beautiful work btw). Before she had her daughter, she accompanied a DC children’s chorus, who performs quite often throughout the DC area. Since she started her piano studio, she hasn’t found many opportunities to perform as a chamber musician, except for the accompaniments she does with students at the local music school.


What do you like most about playing your instrument?

The unlimited possibilities! Solo, chamber, transcription from orchestra or instruments, I can always find something to play and enjoy on every occasion. 


What music do you like to listen to?

Recently I have re-discovered the beauty of Bach’s music. When I was a child, I had difficult time playing Bach’s fugues. This all changed after I went to the three-hour long concert of St Matthew’s Passion in New York. These masterpieces reignited my passion for Bach. 


How do you like to spend your time when you aren’t practicing or teaching?

I love photography, especially portraits of people. I’ve been hired to take photos for newborn, children and civil weddings. (I took the photo of myself for this blog post using a remote control for the camera).


What music projects are you working on now?

I would love to get back on stage as a chamber musician. It’s just wonderful to have comrades on stage to breathe and make music together. All solo pianists would understand the solitude of practicing in the room alone from day to night. I have enjoyed playing with voices, instruments and two pianos. It’s nice to have someone to talk to during practice!


What have you learned by participating in NVMTA programs?

NVMTA has so many programs to offer and I love this welcoming environment. The seminars and talks and meetings are wonderful.  There is always something new for me to learn as a teacher and a musician. 


What is your best advice to new members?

Join the meetings and participate in the programs as much as you can!


Please check boxes to indicate ways you have participated in NVMTA:

Attended in-person NVMTA meetings, 

Attended NVMTA zoom meetings (general meetings, TAT, or LATTE), 

Entered students in an NVMTA event, 

Participated on an NVMTA committee at any level


Please give more information about the items you checked in the previous question. (i.e. what positions you have held or titles of presentations, or favorite events and why etc.)

I started helping with editing the NVMTA website, then joined the executive committee, (it was during the pandemic, with lots of things to adapt to, but luckily we had great members in the committee during that time). Recently I joined the Bach-Baroque Festival and Competition committee. I’m glad to get to involved more and more in these programs and events, and get to know more great teachers out there. 


What is a musical goal (or musical goals) you have?

I guess there is no end to exploring music. It’s like an entire ocean of great music and culture and composers to discover and I want to explore as much as possible. 


What is one (or more) of your most proud moments in your career?

Every time when I finish playing a concert and bow to the audience, those are my proud moments.


Looking back, is there anything you’d do differently in your profession if given a chance?

If I had the chance to travel back in time and talk to me in my 20s, I would say don’t be afraid to try and go after your dreams!


What are some ideas you have for NVMTA and its members and students?

To increase the enrollment of the events, flyers or posters, both electronically and printed, would be great to distribute to local schools and teachers. 


We’re so happy that you’re our December NVMTA Spotlight teacher.  Thank you for your contributions to NVMTA with the website and working with the Bach/Baroque committee!