Joey Zhu is taking his success to a whole new level

Senior excels at music and math.


Nikhita Dhamrait

The cello is one of the many instruments that senior Joey Zhu can play. He also plays the piano.

Andrew Sousa and Ben Rettig

ze upon senior Joey Zhu as he performs his piano segment inside the Carnegie Hall in New York City. 

Even with the clear and immense pressure to succeed, Zhu excels in this type of environment, as he does in many areas of life. 

While Zhu’s academic achievements are notable and well respected, his piano skills are the crescendo of his achievements thus far.

Since he began to play piano at age six, Zhu has excelled in the art.  He currently plays with several notable ensembles, such as the Livermore Amador Symphony orchestra.  Zhu notes that his skills were admired by many from the start.

“I felt like I had a true talent for piano ever since I started playing,” Zhu said. “My teachers and coaches noted this talent as well.”

 Zhu said he started playing on a small electric keyboard when he was three, but he didn’t  start learning the instrument until first grade.  

Many people have recognized Zhu’s superb musical skills. One of them is his piano teacher, Jed Galant.

“Joey is, of course, a special talent,” Galant said. “He is gifted with all the ingredients to make a great pianist: a natural musical instinct, great technique, terrific memory, high intellect, and, most important, a deep abiding love of music.”

In addition to his profound and deep appreciation for music and its composers, Zhu has a talent for writing music as well.

“I self-studied film scoring and orchestration so I write a lot of symphony stuff,” Zhu said.

Some of the highlights of Zhu’s musical career have been  performing at several famous venues. Zhu performed at Carnegie Hall on June 9-10 and  Bankhead Theater in Livermore on Feb. 17 .  Zhu noted that only the best of the best get opportunities to play at these venues.

“I go to auditions in Palo Alto and at Stanford with other competing pianists,” Zhu said. “We all play our best and whoever plays the best will win the spot.”

In his free time, Zhu enjoys giving back to his community with his musical skills.  Zhu plays piano at the San Ramon Senior Center with several other members of the Cal High chamber orchestra.

Zhu has a plethora of musical talent beyond playing piano.   

“I started playing the cello for fun in third grade and really liked it so I then got really serious about playing two instruments,” Zhu said. 

Zhu serves as a co-principal of the Golden State Youth Orchestra in Palo Alto. As co-principal, he mentors and teaches younger orchestra players.  

When asked about how one can better their musical skills, Zhu offers some simple and succinct advice: “Work hard, go to shows and practice a lot.”

Alongside his immense musical achievements, Zhu has also experienced a great deal of success in the classroom.

As a sophomore, Zhu finished all math courses offered at Cal High. Now as a senior, he is taking online and college level courses including multi-variable calculus. He took eight AP tests last school year, and said he scored 5’s on every single one.

“The most admirable trait about Joey is that he always wants to learn and do better,” said senior Ezekiel Nunez, one of Zhu’s close friends. “He just seems to get certain topics through a systematic way of thinking.”

But as the level of difficulty and expectations increase, so does his desire to learn and improve as a person.

“He’s bright, exceptional, enthusiastic about learning, and continues to challenge himself,” said Jean Dillman, Zhu’s former AP Calculus teacher. “He still brings me questions from his math classes.” 

As for memorable classes, Zhu mentioned how one of his favorite courses at Cal High was Debbie Sater’s physics class and his math classes, especially with Dillman.

What is truly impressive about Zhu is his ability to manage his enormous workload while also building in free time and space into his schedule.

“Most kids spend 40-50 hours a week on their phones,” Zhu said. “So, if people are wondering how to find time for themselves, then there’s lots of time right there.”

For some kids, high school is viewed as a stressful and demanding environment. But for Zhu, he sees school as an opportunity. 

“I see school as a place to assess myself and improve,” Zhu said. “School is a place where I can learn good qualities of life as well as academic knowledge.

“Whether you work hard or not, all is on you,” he continued. “You are in control of your future.”