New York Philharmonic premieres composition by Interlochen Arts Academy student Melody Zhang
A visual arts major, Zhang created several paintings as part of their orchestral work “Opalescent,” which is dedicated to the LGBTQIA+ community.
The New York Philharmonic presented the world premiere of "Opalescent" by Interlochen Arts Academy freshman Melody Zhang as part of its Young People's Concert on Saturday, Jan. 15, at 2 p.m. in Alice Tully Hall. On the eve of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, the program showcased how composers amplify calls for freedom, equality, and justice through music.
Zhang dedicated "Opalescent" to those who helped them realize their "queer self" and to the LGBTQIA+ community. "I wrote 'Opalescent' when I was realizing my own identity with who I was and am," Zhang wrote in the program note. "It audibly represents the community that welcomed me when I couldn't welcome myself."
A former participant in the New York Philharmonic's Young Composers' Program through their New York City school, Zhang composed "Opalescent" in the sixth grade when they were just 11 years old. (It had been selected to be performed in 2021, but the concert was postponed due to COVID-19.) "The prompt to compose music that represented a call to action forced me to think more than just about myself as an individual and consider the world I lived in," they said.
A visual arts major at Interlochen, Zhang created paintings themed around the sections of the piece. "The weird thing about being a visual arts major and also having a background in music as well as a passion for writing is that, at some point, the lines between the three start to blur," Zhang said. "There is also a gorgeous vulnerability in art that I feel is magnified when you have multiple forms. More people will understand what you say when you provide more examples for them to see. And since I believe my message is important, I want as many people to understand my feelings and my vulnerability as possible."
Zhang has long considered themselves a multidisciplinary artist. Before they laid notes on the staff for "Opalescent," they drew little images, wrote poetry, and hummed tunes. "From a young age, I was drawing, playing piano, and writing," they recalled. "I enjoyed all three as one big part of me. As I got older, they started to separate, but I was still thinking about them as one."
Zhang discovered Interlochen through an Interlochen Online Materials Exploration program last summer led by Instructor of Visual Arts Megan Hildebrandt. "It was unlike any other visual arts program I had taken in that it inspired me to tackle large conceptual ideas," Zhang said.
In their first semester at the Arts Academy, Zhang savors being surrounded by every single art form. "Interlochen has helped me realize that art is extremely human and can be part of everyday life. It's just so inspiring to realize that if you look closely and are there at the right time, everything can be art."
On Thursday, Jan. 13, Zhang took over Interlochen's Instagram story to give our community a peek at preparations for the world premiere of "Opalescent" in New York City.