On March 25, 2019, during the historical State visit of Chinese President Xi JinPing and his wife Peng LiYuan to the Principality of Monaco, Their Serene Highnesses Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene had presented a musical moment especially created to welcome Madam Peng: a short violin recital given by Zhang Zhang, performing music of European and Chinese composers to commemorate this historic occasion between Monaco and China. When HSH Princess Charlene presented Zhang Zhang to Madam Peng, The First Lady of the People’s Republic of China offered warm congratulations to Zhang for having contributed positively to the friendship of the two nations: ‘Your story is an inspiration to all Chinese women, we are very proud of you” were the First Lady’s words.
Towards the end of the performance, Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella came in to join their mother, a delightful surprise to both the Princess and the First Lady. Her Serene Highness said to the little Princes: ‘come and listen to Zhang Zhang play the violin!’ and asked if Zhang would play an additional song. This was how “Some Day My Prince Will Come” from the Disney classic “Snow White” was added impromptu to the official program. Point de Vue magazine featured on their cover story this precise moment, captured by the official journalists assigned to the State visit. The Chinese journalists who were present were further intrigued when they heard Madam Peng say to Zhang: “Please give my best regards to your parents”, at the end of the performance.
In the days that followed, Zhang Zhang received interview requests from the Chinese state and social media, including People’s Daily, Xin Hua, and CCTV. They were curious about this Chinese artist of Monaco, wishing to discover and share her story to millions of Chinese people. It was a milestone acknowledgement for this talented musician and social entrepreneur.
Zhang was born in Beijing to an artistic family: Zhang’s mother Lin Ying was an award-winning film actress and concert pianist, while her father Zhang YunZhang was a virtuoso violinist who performed for Chairman Mao as well as President Nixon (hence the remark from the First Lady). Zhang Zhang grew up and studied in Beijing, Thailand, and Canada, ending with a Master’s degree from Rice University, Houston, USA, under the mentorship of renowned maestro Sergiu Luca (1943 -2010). This was completed by a Diploma of Soloist from Conservatoire de Lausanne, Switzerland. Zhang Zhang joined the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra in 2000, and went on to create The Monaco String Quartet Ensemble in 2001 and the Zhang Zhang Band in 2002. In 2005, Zhang was invited to perform at the enthronement ceremony of Prince Albert II of Monaco, becoming the first Chinese person with this honor in the Principality of Monaco for over 700 years. Since her first years in Monaco, Zhang Zhang had been greatly inspired by the vibrant tradition of philanthropy, prevalent in the Principality, actively participating in charity events working with notable Monaco organizations such as Mission Enfance, Monaco Aides et Presence, AMADE, Fondation Princesse Grace, and Fondation Prince Albert II of Monaco.
In 2006, Zhang created her own non-governmental organization, ZhangomusiQ, innovating the classic business model of live concerts into an alliance of partnerships including sponsors who fund the costs of the concerts, and NGOs who receive 100% of revenues generated by the concerts towards humanitarian and ecological projects worldwide. In the last 14 years, ZhangomusiQ has created more than 60 musical events helping projects in 33 countries, including creating schools for girls in Afghanistan; access to fresh water in Africa; emergency aid after natural disasters in Japan, Philippines, and Chile; planting trees in the Amazon; protecting marine life in the Mediterranean; helping handicapped and elderly persons living in poverty… Championing the Principality’s leadership in ecological engagements, Zhang is also actively engaged in environmental causes. As an ambassador for the Nicolas Hulot Foundation and the GoodPlanet Foundation of Yann Arthus Bertrand, she has worked with innovative leaders and thinkers including Bertrand Piccard, Dominique Bourg, and Pablo Servigne. Participant in the United Nations Climate Change Conferences in Paris and Bonn, Zhang was invited to give a speech at the Summit of Conscience by French President François Hollande in Paris.
“Musical Diplomacy” – as she calls it – is also an important part of ZhangomusiQ. Over the years, Zhang Zhang has actively assisted diplomatic missions accompanying the Ambassadors of Monaco in Moscow, Rome, Tokyo and Brussels, as well as working closely with the Promotion Bureau of the Principality of Monaco in Asia on several public events in Singapore, Thailand and China.
In 2017, with the full support of the Prince’s Government, Zhang embarked on a sabbatical from the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra to focus on creating more “Musical Philanthropy” and “Musical Diplomacy” projects around the world, generating funding to help those in need while promoting the Principality of Monaco. Closer to home, ZhangomusiQ offers monthly concerts for the elderly residents in Monaco’s retirement homes and the patients of the Gerontology Center Rainier III.
The China projects
While her musical philanthropic work took her around the globe, China and Asia are always close to Zhang’s heart. In September 2019, Zhang had the honor to represent the Principality in Dun Huang, the ancient Silk Roads city in the Gobi Desert, at the 4th Silk Roads International Cultural Exposition and the 9th Silk Roads Tourism Festival, where she performed at the International Gala, accompanied by a traditional Chinese orchestra. The Cultural Expo especially invited Zhang’s mother, Madam Lin Ying, to share the stage with her daughter, performing a duet which was broadcasted ‘live’ to more than 30 million audiences. Further invitations by the Cultural and Tourism board of GanSu province followed. What was to be the vibrant start of the ZhangomusiQ Silk Roads Philanthropy World Tour came to a halt due to the sudden arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic which struck the world from January 2020.
During the months of lockdown in Monaco, Zhang worked on innovating and transforming existing models to create new projects adapted to the reality of global pandemic challenges. In June 2020, ZhangomusiQ created and performed its first Musical Philanthropy Concert broadcasted through Cloud technology. The concert was held in Suzhou’s Ming Dynasty classical garden to an audience of 100 worldwide with the participation of a local traditional Chinese orchestra.
Charity events at the Metropole Monte-Carlo
“One of the key components of ZhangomusiQ projects is the generosity of our friends and partners, from individuals to industries. We would not have succeeded over the years without their unwavering support. A story born in Monaco, inspired and encouraged by the community of the Principality, ZhangomusiQ is the result of friendship, audacity, and the generosity of many, it really does take a village! One of our loyal partners is the Hotel Metropole Monte Carlo. In March 2018, for example, the Hotel offered ZhangomusiQ the beautiful Salon Theatres to create a concert for Monaco’s “Mission Enfance” association. More than 22,000 euros were contributed on that night by the generous 70 attendees, towards building a school in Afghanistan. In addition to offering the exclusive venue, the owners of the Hotel also donated personally to the project. On November 4th, 2020, we returned to the Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo giving our first public philanthropy concert in Monaco since COVID-19, a project of Skål International Monaco!”
“Due to the global crisis of Covid-19 pandemic, many regions of the world are facing unprecedented financial and infrastructure crisis, leading to catastrophic humanitarian tragedies, in addition to existing regional conflicts and natural disasters, while challenges of climate change remain a foremost concern to all. I believe artists can and should actively take part in helping our society, beyond the role of offering solace through beauty and entertainment. As musicians, we have a stage, we have a public, we can also be messengers and initiators of societal issues which benefit the community we live in. ‘Live’ performances bring people together, those who want to help, and those who need help. Think about it: all of us, if one can sing, dance, play an instrument, act… even amateur performers could create events to generate solidarity and concrete aid to help those in need in our communities. Our goal is to share the ZhangomusiQ model with artists world wide. No help is too small, united by art and a shared desire to change the world, we can contribute positively to humanity and our planet, everyday, everywhere, one concert at a time. Join us!”
Find out more about ZhangomusiQ here.