Meet Leo Zhu, One of the Youngest Associate Members of the Royal Schools of Music

Leo Zhu – our youngest ever contributor – on how it feels, at 10 years of age, to be one of the youngest people in the world to become an associate member of the Royal Schools of Music

I first started playing the violin when I was about two-years-old. My sister had started playing violin a year and a half before me and I really liked how she played, so I wanted to join her.

My first music teacher was my dad – he’s also a good violinist – and then I went on to have some teachers at the Annexe [a separate facility at Guildhall specifically for young people], and then after a couple of years I moved up to Junior Guildhall, where I joined my sister.

At Cothill House, the music department offers me a lot of support. Miss Andrews [the Director of Music] helps me a lot. We have this thing called Early Music Practice, where you start early at 7.15am. I don’t really mind the early start, and our normal wake up time is only 10 minutes past the start of music practice, so there’s no point in arguing!

As well as music I do get involved in other aspects at the school. I can play football, but I can’t play rugby or cricket because they involve throwing and catching – if I injure my fingers, then I will not be able to play the violin.

When preparing for the ARSM (Associate of the Royal Schools of Music) Diploma performance, it was tough choosing the music to play. My teacher at Junior Guildhall gave me a lot of random pieces to choose from, and I chose the hardest pieces – mainly to impress the examiner!

‘Music will always be a big part of my life. I feel like I have achieved a lot so far, but I’ve still got a lot to do until I can do my Teaching Diploma’

I also learnt every single piece that I chose from, as they all involve a variety of different techniques. One was Bach’s Concerto in E Major, Hayden’s Concerto in C – all of these I did in the first movement – and there’s a Kreisler Praeludium and Allegro. There’s also the Kabalevsky Concerto, which is also in the first movement. I had to practice really hard, and in the same week I also did my Grade 5 piano and my Grade 4 singing.

I knew I played well as soon as I finished the exam. My exam was on one of the hottest days of the year, my fingers were sweaty and I had a slip in-between. Overall, I knew I delivered all the pieces to a high standard. I am also very grateful to my school and my teachers who have been very patient with me, inspired me and helped me to achieve this result.

Music will always be a big part of my life. I feel like I have achieved a lot so far in music. I have worked hard to reach the Diploma level, but I’ve still got a lot to do until I can do my Teaching Diploma, which I really want to do – but I have to be 18 to do that!

Leo Zhu is a Year 6 pupil at Cothill House School, a leading boys’ boarding prep school for 200 boys aged 8-13


Saint Cecilia’s: Where Music & Maths Meet a Christian Ethos

Music: The Source of Love at Stowe

How to Ensure High Achievers Reach Their Full Potential in School