Hilary interviews pianist Natalie Zhu

Q: Is chocolate a drug?
A: No, it’s a habit.

Q: Pets?
A: I love dogs the most; they’re so loyal. I think I must have been a cat in a previous life, because I meow realistically – and when I do, cats run to me and seem to understand what I’m saying. Once, I had to hide in the bathroom to get away from three of them! I like almost all kinds of animals except snakes and insects in general.

Q: What about Bach?
A: I think of him as a philosophical and romantic composer. People always think Bach is very strict and boring, but actually, in his music, you have a lot of freedom. Back in his time, people improvised a lot, and often, harpsichord players had nothing but a figured-bass line to work from. Even now, you can add ornamentation if you want. The freedom is also musical; you have space to be individual. In Bach’s score, there are no dynamic markings, so you have many interpretive options, and therefore, everyone interprets it differently.

Q: Classical music in schools – what difference does it make, and why is it important?
A: It’s our responsibility to teach this art form and to make it relevant. I feel classical music is getting further and further from our generation; there is so much other music out there, like pop, rock, rap, etc., that classical music also needs to be taken seriously. Studying classical music helps kids to develop many skills, such as math and general learning skills, and it improves coordination and thought processes. It encourages self-discipline, too.

Q: Applause between movements (sections of a piece) in a concert
I just think it’s better if there isn’t applause between the movements, because it sort of interrupts the structure of a piece and is distracting for the performer. If people don’t know otherwise, it’s not the end of the world, and it’s not bad – I’m glad that they appreciate the performance. It’s just easier for concentration if the applause comes at the end of the piece.

Q: Reality TV shows?

Very entertaining. I watch them on the road sometimes, when I have nothing better to do. They get silly, though; I think some of the shows should be eliminated. There are too many of them. They should have more educational shows instead.

Q: Cut flowers?
A: I love flowers. I mean, if we don’t cut them, they will die eventually anyway. Why not just brighten our rooms and enjoy them in our every day lives? It’s nice to bring that life into our space. They’re especially good for Valentine’s Day! And for weddings.

Q: Tap water – drinkable?
A: No. It’s poisonous. Little kids, beware: Do Not Drink Tap Water!!!

Q: Holidays?
A: I always look forward to holidays. I love Christmas; it’s a time to get together with family, and New Year’s marks a new beginning. There are always new goals after New Year’s.

Q: Anonymity vs. fame?
A: It’s all the same to me. I’d rather do my best in my work and see what comes from that.