ALBANY — Zheng Jennifer Huang’s love affair with music began at an early age. A native of China, she attended orchestral rehearsals as a young girl with her mother, a violinist, and listened to her father as he played the accordion.
“Accordions were more common then, because they were similar to a piano, but portable. Pianos were often harder to come by, but because my parents were musicians, we had access to one, and that where I learned to play,” Huang said.
Huang has come a long way since those first days of listening to others rehearse. Now, she is the one in the spotlight. As a pianist and harpsichordist, she has performed numerous recitals and concerts in solo performances and chamber music ensembles in Asia, Europe, and the United States, including Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center.
Sunday, Huang will show off her skills during a solo piano recital at the Darton Theatre. The free event begins at 4 p.m. and will include a variety of classical styles and pieces featuring renowned composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig Beethoven.
Huang joined the faculty of Darton State College in August as its first full-time professor of piano and now keeps busy passing her knowledge along to aspiring students who also hope to one day have a career in music.
If Huang’s resume is any indication, then Darton’ students are in good hands.
After graduating from The Xi’an Conservatory of Music, she attended The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and received the Advanced Diploma in Piano Performance. Later, she attended Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Piano Performance. As a recipient of a full graduate scholarship from Mannes College of Music, New York, Dr. Huang earned a double Master’s Degree in both Piano and Harpsichord Performance before earning her Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Harpsichord Performance at Stony Brook University in New York.
Huang is also the co-founder of Ensemble Solaire, a group dedicated to presenting historically informed performance of music in different genres. The ensemble has performed at The New York Early Music Series, New York Midtown Concerts, Trinity Church’s Concerts, Amherst Early Music Festival, New York Historical Society, and other events.
“What I love about music is the comfort it gives me,” Huang said. “This has been my life, and it’s the place where I can express my feelings. If I’m feeling angry about something, I might just choose to come play a more aggressive piece for a while rather than yell at someone,” she laughed.
“Playing the piano is a way in which people can really reflect and express the feeling of music. It’s a lot like acting in a way — you’re not acting, but you are playing a part, and conveying emotion. It can be a very spiritual experience.”
And for budding musicians, Huang serves as an example that you can never practice too much, spending several hours a day honing her craft.
“Though it does take a lot of practice and hard work, it’s worth it,” Huang said. “It’s a challenge to perfect a piece and present it the way it was intended, physically and emotionally — but those challenges are what makes music so interesting.”