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HOUSTON, Dec. 8, 2008 – Each year, only 40 American students are named as Marshall Scholars. Those selected for this esteemed honor have the unique opportunity to study for two years at a higher learning institution in the United Kingdom.
Among the students who soon will be heading across the pond is University of Houston Moores School of Music (MSM) senior piano performance major Jessica Wei Zhu. She will begin her graduate studies at the Guildhall School of Music in London in September 2009.
“When I learned that I was a named a Marshall Scholar, it was a life-changing moment,” Zhu said. “It’s wonderful to have people believe in me and realize the value of student musicians. It gives me a great amount of hope that there will be continued support for young artists such as myself.”
Zhu’s talents have been noticed by Houston music aficionados through local performances. Statewide and nationally, she’s also caught the public’s ears through award-winning performances at music competitions and at concerts. Recently, she took first prize – a new Steinway piano – at the Collegiate Division of the Young Artist Piano Competition of the Music Teachers National Association in Denver, Colo. She also finished first at the 2007/2008 Texas Music Teachers Association Competition, the 2006 Young Texas Artists Music Competition and the 2004 Kingsville International Young Performers Competitions.
“We are very proud that one of our most outstanding graduates has received this prestigious scholarship,” said David Ashley White, director of MSM. “I have long been impressed with Jessica’s great talent as a pianist and her prowess as a scholar. She will represent UH well!”
Guiding Zhu through her musical development at UH has been Nancy Weems, professor of piano at MSM. Zhu credits Weems’ experience as both a musician and a mentor in assisting her growth as a pianist.
“One of the greatest things she’s helped me with is helping me see the bigger picture of what I want to do in life,” Zhu said. “She is very nurturing as a teacher, and knows what kind of guidance I need, whether it’s during a rehearsal or a competition. She’s trying to help me become both a better musician and someone who is going to contribute to society.”
Zhu was born in Shanghai, China, and moved to the Houston area when she was 11. She picked up the piano as a young girl, and when she was in junior high, she met Weems while taking lessons from her husband John.
Weems admitted that she will miss one of her best students but is incredibly happy about this recent accomplishment.
“This is a very special moment for her and everyone who is close to her,” Weems said. “I am looking forward to hearing about her future success and soon having her as a colleague instead of a student.”
Marshall Scholarships were established in 1953 and named after former U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall. They are mainly funded by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and are overseen by the Marshall Commission. In the U.S., the selection process is managed by the regional Consulates General in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, and in Washington, D.C., by the British Council on behalf of the British Embassy.
“With the knowledge I gain as a Marshall Scholar, I hope to make a difference in my community whether it’s as a soloist, chamber musician, recitalist, teacher or church musician,” Zhu said. “I am very eager to learn from my experience in the U.K.”
MSM is one of the premier music schools in America. Offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, it serves approximately 600 students annually. Areas of study include composition, conducting, performance, theory and musicology. Its faculty consists of internationally recognized performers, composers and scholars. Among its ensembles are the Moores School Symphony Orchestra, Moores Jazz Ensemble, Moores Opera Center, Concert Chorale, Concert Women’s Chorus, Spirit of Houston Cougar Marching Band, Wind Ensemble and Percussion Ensemble. A majority of the school’s concerts are performed in the 800 seat Moores Opera House. For more details on the Moores School of Music, visit http://www.music.uh.edu/.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.