Ross School - Senior Projects 2011


Student: Jixin Zhou (Angela)

Mentor: Clarissa Schneider

Domain(s): Performing Arts









My senior project is a piano recital consists of different types of compositions from “the poet of the piano”, Chopin with a paper explaining and analyzing the musicology of Chopin’s works. Chopin is one of the most representative composers and pianists of the Romantic Period and also my favorite pianist ever. This year is the 100th anniversary of Chopin’s death so this recital is designed for more people to get to know and like Chopin. Throughout the senior project, I learned many techniques and skills required for the compositions. I also gained more knowledge about the history of the Romantic period, the biography of Chopin, research skills, documentation skills and expressive devices required for my piano repertoire.












For my project, what I did was a piano recital that consists of 5 different types of compositions from Chopin along with a paper analyzing and summarizing the characteristics of the Romantic period music, as well as Chopin’s styles of compositions, inspirations and influences.

I began my senior project in my junior year with the initial idea of studying the marketing and advertising strategies from the Coca-Cola Company. I went to visit the coca-cola factory and did my summer reading on this as well.

However, when I came back for my senior year, I realized that this subject is not my true passion and I wouldn’t be happy or inspired from studying this. Therefore, I decided to change my senior project into something else.

I have been playing the piano ever since I was 6. It is something I truly love and enjoy so I decided that I want to have a piano recital. I switched my mentor to Ms. Clarissa Schneider.

After I decided that I wanted to do a recital and a paper for my senior project, it came to the matter of choosing topic. Chopin has always been my favorite composer of all times and 2010 was the 100th anniversary of Chopin’s death. I thought that it would be a good idea if I could use this chance to let more people get to know about Chopin and get to like his music.

Although we decided that the project would be about a composer, I thought that I should focus on the Romantic period which Chopin is in for my paper since I thought only talking about the composer would be more like a biography instead of something broader and more educational. We decided to do 5 pieces for the recital and we chose a waltz, a prelude, a cello sonata (which I did a duet with fellow senior Beomjoo Yu), an etude and a nocturne. Those are all completely different types of compositions and my idea was to show people the great variety of works Chopin has done and let people have a broad and general idea about Chopin and enjoy how versatile his works could be.

After that, it really just came down to the process of practicing the songs. For anyone who has learned any instrument they would know that learning the notes for any compositions is the hardest part. It takes a tremendous amount of time and energy and could be a really frustrating experience. It took the majority of my senior project for me to get that done. I spent months just sitting in the practice room keep playing the same music over and over again.

Since then I was familiar with the notes and could play them systematically without any mistakes, the next step was to add feelings to the compositions. I listened to countless recordings and watched video clips of other pianists and tried to get inspirations from them. I learned a lot of new techniques to help get the feelings right.

For me, the biggest challenges I faced would be the limitation to the access of piano. I am a boarding student living in a dorm house which doesn’t have a piano in, so I had to play piano at school all the time. During the weekend and during vacations, I have absolutely no access to pianos at all. Also, English is my second language and I had to write a pretty lengthy paper in English with all the citations and everything and it was quite challenging. In addition to that, time management overall is just a bit tricky since practicing every single day for hours and hours in school days would just seem “too much” for many times.

Despite all the difficulties I encountered, I feel like I truly learned a lot from this experience. I realized how much I love the piano and I could do with it. I wouldn’t believe that I could still do a full formal recital after completely stopped playing piano for almost 4 years. I also learned a lot of piano techniques that could be beneficial throughout my life. Research and writing skills are also great skills that I acquired through this experience and I know for sure that I would benefit from them in the future. I am considering minoring in piano in college and I am definitely going to keep playing piano later in my life and probably giving out recitals regularly.

Overall, this senior project experience is just great. I made so many discoveries about myself, about piano, about music and about Chopin. I enjoyed every step along the way (even the tears) and I indeed benefitted from it in so many different aspects as well. I would love to do projects like this again.


Works Consulted


 "Chopin Preludes." Classical Composers - Biographies of Music Geniuses. Web. 28 Jan. 2011. <>.


“Composers” Essential of Music 21 May 2009


Hedley, Arthur and Brown J.E. Maurice (Sect 1—6) Nicholas Temperley (Sect 7—14) “Chopin, Fryderyk Franciszek” The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. London: McMillan, 1980.


"Introduction to Romanticism" Romanticism. 21 May 2009 <>.


Kuhn, Laura. Student Encyclopedia of Music. New York: Schirmer, 1999.


M.Tevfik Dorak. “Romantic period music” <>


"Nocturnes - Frédéric Chopin." Piano Society. Web. 28 Jan. 2011. <>.


“November Uprising” Economic 21 May 2009 <>


Smolenska-Zielinska, Barbara. “Biography” Chopin: The Poet of The Piano 21 May 2009 <>


StĆhlbrand, Robert. "Research, Chopin's Waltzes." Piano Society. Web. 28 Jan. 2011. <>.


Yu, Fred. "Chopin : Complete Music Analysis - Etudes." CHOPIN : THE POET OF THE PIANO. Web. 24 Jan. 2011. <>.


Yu, Fred. "Chopin : Complete Music Analysis - Preludes." CHOPIN : THE POET OF THE PIANO. Web. 28 Jan. 2011. <>.





Outside Consultant


She has been my piano teacher ever since my childhood and she is truly wonderful. I called her out of nowhere in the middle of my project. After explaining the situation she was so glad to jump in and listen to me playing live through skype. She made so many great suggestions and corrections and those were truly wonderful advices and helped me a lot.