Award-winning pianist Elizabeth Zietz, 16, formed an organization that brings young musicians together.
Two years ago, Elizabeth Zietz, now 16, decided that along with tackling her first year at Northwood High School and preparing for international piano competitions, she would start a networking organization for young musicians in California.
Aptly named California Young Musicians, the student-run group aims to give its members more performance experience outside of seasonal recitals and competitions.
“I wanted to start California Young Musicians after seeing the need for a community of young musicians who would support each other, ” said Zietz. “It serves as a platform for us to share our music, inspire others and make an impact.”
In 2016 Zietz was among eight musicians under age 16 chosen to study with Grammy Award-winning Chinese concert pianist Lang as part of the Lang Foundation’s Young Scholar Program.
Lang inspired her to think of ways to revolutionize music education, Zietz said, and that encouraged her to push forward with California Young Musicians even though recruiting members was difficult at first.
The group, made up of high school and college students and open to all levels of performers, is now 25 strong and boasts members who have won prestigious international competitions, played at Carnegie and Walt Disney Concert halls and have studied with world-renowned musicians. The young artists get together to perform concerts at corporate events, fundraising galas and community events.
Victor Shlyakhtenko, 15, recently named a grand prize finalist in the Music Center’s Spotlight competition, studies piano at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. California Young Musicians is good way to practice in a non-competitive setting, he said. He also thinks the community performances will help people appreciate classical music.
“I think music is a wonderful way to communicate emotions, and I feel really inspired because I love sharing music with others, ” said Shlyakhtenko. “We’ re spreading awareness of music.”
Shlyakhtenko recently offered a lecture and demonstration to elementary school kids at the Bowers Museum, another initiative of California Young Musicians.
“Music education helps students throughout their lives because it teaches discipline, creativity, kindness, humility and more, ” said Zietz. “Ultimately, as students, we want to have a voice and want to shape education.”
In addition to providing music lessons to younger students and performing in the community, California Young Musicians hosts master classes. The next one, sponsored by OC Music and Dance, will be with international concert pianist Rueibin Chen on Saturday, Sept. 16.
Vocalist Elyse Johnson, 18, said California Young Musicians gives her a place to sing without the pressure of school or competition.
“Being a part of this organization gave me a chance to see why I am doing this, ” said Johnson. “It’s so liberating to just share my music freely after doing competitions, which can wear you down.”
Zietz and the other members say they hope to see more artists find a home in their organization so that the group can find new ways to collaborate.
“I’ m genuinely excited for the future, ” Zietz said. “I have been pushed out of my comfort zone and I have taken risks, but I feel like uniting these young artists will make a lasting impact.”

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