Creative Spotlight | Brian Zhang
Published on 14 November 2022
Tell us a bit about who you are and what kind of creative work you make
I am a guitarist that belongs to a small, but booming scene of ‘modern fingerstyle guitarists’ around the world. I play a style of guitar playing that incorporates unusual and unorthodox techniques to play all aspects of music including melody, bass, and drums, into one arrangement, to explore the guitar’s full creative potential. I’ve also been teaching guitar for over 10 years, and in 2022 I opened my first music school, becoming the first franchisee of Stormer Music - Stormer Music Roseville.
How does your personal history, culture or experience inform your creative work?
I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since high school, and whenever I learn something about my own mental health journey, it helps shape how I approach writing a new piece of music and how I teach my students. Other times I will turn to the experiences of those closest to me which becomes the source of a piece of music. Sometimes I’ll envision an alternate reality where my life is something totally different and wonder what my life would be like if I was born in a different country, or how different things could be if certain events transpired another way.
What creative project are you working on at the moment?
Currently, I’m working on two projects - the first one is running a music school for the first time. This year I joined Stormer Music and opened their first franchise in the North Shore of Sydney. This is the biggest challenge in my career so far as I’ve gone from teaching just 30 guitar students a week to running a school with over 100 students of all instruments!
The other project I’m working on is building an online learning platform called Brian Zhang Fingerstyle Guitar School. Along with running Stormer Music, I’m working on creating this online platform that will be dedicated to teaching the music and style of my musical heroes including Tommy Emmanuel, with the goal of turning it into a physical school in Sydney in the future.
What has been the highlight of your creative career so far?
As far as teaching goes, the highlights of career would be the student concerts I hold at the end of each year. The most rewarding part of the job has been seeing my students get up on stage, especially those who are very shy and nervous. To see them overcome their fears, have a go, and then have parents come to me saying how proud they are of their kid, to makes me realise just how special my job is.
As far as performing goes, getting the opportunity to play on stage with my musical hero, Tommy Emmanuel back in 2016!
What’s your favourite part of working as an artist / creative?
The opportunity to share my journey with people is what makes it special. I believe music is something that is meant to be shared with others, and it is the universal language that unites us all as one. I love it when music is used to celebrate the happiest moments in life, but I especially love it when it is used to unite people in times of grief and pain. So often in life, music is there is help us get through the toughest times in life. I love being able to use music to show people that things will be okay when things look grim, and on the flip side, being able to solidify happy moments in life so they stay within our memories forever.
What’s the most challenging part of working as an artist / creative?
Dealing with the outside noise and external forces beyond my control. Given the subjective and personal nature of music, there’s always going to be someone out there who will tell you you’re not good enough, or you should do things another way, or you’re not doing things right. Whilst I always respect the opinions of others, I’m still learning to trust my gut instinct and find a way that I believe is the best for me.
Do you have any top tips for emerging artists and creatives just starting out?
Learn from as many people not just in your field, but from others who are in completely different industries. Some of the best lessons I’ve learnt have been from who aren’t musicians.
Learn to say yes before you learn to say no. By saying yes to every opportunity that comes your way, you give yourself a chance to move forward each time.
Finally, worry about what you can control, not what you can’t control. We can’t control what others think and what happens outside of us, so the sooner you learn to shut out the uncontrollable, the sooner you will be able to strive with what you can control.
We always love recommendations! Who are some other local artists we should check out?
Justyn Angel who is not only an incredible singer and composer, but she is also a wonderful piano player: instagram.com/justyn.angel
Elias Bartholomeo and Jay Jay are a country fingerstyle guitar duo who have been entertaining crowds around regional areas of NSW in recent times: instagram.com/eliasandjj
Finally, I must give a shout out to Jordyn Richards who featured on this creative spotlight series earlier this year, and I also taught her guitar a few years ago as well. I wish I could say that I had a big impact on her career up until this point, but she was already incredible before I taught her: instagram.com/jordynordyn