Zhang playing at Symphony of Vines Piano Recital

ATASCADERO — “I really can’t tell you who my favorite composer is because I like all of them,” said Albert Zhang, 11, as he squirmed in his seat and scanned the ceiling for answers. “I guess it must be Beethoven because his songs make me feel like I can do anything. It makes me strong.” 

Zhang, a sixth-grader at Atascadero Middle School has been chosen as Symphony of the Vines Student Spotlight. He will have a solo performance during two concerts featuring pianist Torsten Juul-Borre.  

Juul-Borre, a Templeton resident, studied at the Royal Danish Conservatory of Music and has toured the world, as well as performed with the San Luis Obispo Symphony Orchestra, Cuesta College’s “Portraits in Music,” and the Community Concerts Association.

Juul-Borre also happens to be the young pianist’s music teacher.


“Albert is really talented, but he also knows that excellence comes from hard work and that’s practicing,” he explained. Albert practices about three hours a day. He begins with an hour of Hanon finger exercises and then moves on to music. 

Although the young pianist enjoys practicing, there is an incentive.

“For every hour I practice, I get 10 minutes on the Xbox,” he said with a laugh. “How great is that?” He quickly added that he would practice without the reward, but he does enjoy playing video games with his friends.

“I’ve never seen a child like him,” said Juul-Borre. “When I explain that this a slur, here we lift and there you smooth — he really gets it.”

Student Spotlight is a program that allows an advanced student to work with professional musicians and perform in a professional venue. “We’re really impressed with Albert’s playing skills and his ability to interpret the music at such a young age,” said Greg Magie, Symphony of the Vines Music Director.

“When he has it in his body and in his soul, he’s very good at bringing forth the music and enjoying the moment,” said Juul-Borre.

Zhang wants to be a composer himself. He said that he hears music as he goes about his day. “This is what traffic sounds like when I’m in the car with my mom.”

The short piece he played did seem to be lifted from a movie score depicting busy city streets.

Torsten Juul-Borre will play selections from composers Frank Schubert, Maurice Ravel and Frank Liszt. Zhang will tackle Mozart.

“Mozart was a child genius, and Albert is not so bad either. I have never seen anyone quite like him,” explained Juul-Borre.

Symphony of the Vines presents “Piano Recital” with Juul-Borre and Zhang as the Student Spotlight at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16, at Grace Bible Church, Arroyo Grande and at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 18, at Cass Winery, Paso Robles. 

Tickets to the “Piano Recital with Torsten Juul-Borre” range from $15 to $30 and students K-12 are free with a paid adult thanks to a sponsorship by Carolyn and Jim Brescia. The concert is also sponsored by Aurelia Wick. Tickets are available at the door one hour before the concert and online at my805tix.com or symphonyofthevines.org.

Symphony of the Vines is a nonprofit, professional orchestra based in north San Luis Obispo County that features orchestra and chamber ensembles playing in various venues including Central Coast wineries. Symphony of the Vines also supports educational success with Student Spotlight, a mentoring program for intermediate and advanced student musicians.