“The Xian effect”: the New Jersey Symphony and Xian Zhang

Posted on: March 10, 2020

Xian Zhang leads the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra at New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Prudential Hall. Photo courtesy of Cherylynn Tsushima

“In 2015, Zhang was named music director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. She is the first woman to hold that position in the NJSO’s 98-year history,” writes Jacqueline Klecak in Monday’s (3/9) New Jersey Monthly. “Now 46, Xian Zhang (pronounced shen jang) didn’t set out to be a pioneer…. ‘I only let my training and music lead the way.’ … During a recent concert at NJPAC … throwing her whole body into every movement … ‘She’s [a] vortex of all this energy,’ says Kathleen Nester, an NJSO musician for more than 20 years…. Her arrival at the NJSO had an immediate impact…. Zhang’s approachability and dedication is what president and CEO Gabriel van Aalst calls the Xian effect. ‘[It’s] when a patron comes up to her and says, “Oh my god, you’re amazing, you’re wonderful.” And Xian turns to them and says, “How’s your daughter? Last time I saw you 2 1/2 years ago, your daughter was visiting from San Diego”—or whatever the case is,’ says van Aalst. ‘She has the most amazing memory…. In the same way that she brings energy to the stage, she brings that energy to every part of her life.’ ”