LONDON – A 17-year-old Chinese-born percussionist has taken the title of BBC Young Musician of 2020 in a delayed contest, and he told Xinhua on Monday that the victory means “a very important milestone and a good start”.

Zhang Fang, from Central China’s Henan province and now studying at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, won the final contest with a performance of Keiko Abe’s marimba concerto Prism Rhapsody, which required him to play with six mallets simultaneously.

In the televised national music competition, which was held at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on April 25 after one-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Zhang competed with 18-year-old French horn player Annemarie Federle and 19-year-old oboist Ewan Millar, reported the BBC.

His playing “elicited a kaleidoscope of colours and expression” that “deeply moved the jury,” said Angela Dixon, who chaired the judging panel.

Zhang told Xinhua Monday that he started learning percussion at the age of seven and came to Britain for music study in 2018 with a full scholarship.

“For me this victory is a very important milestone and a good start,” he said.

He expressed his gratitude to the music schools he attended both in China and Britain, and especially thanked his father for his great support and company during his participation in international music competitions over the past years.

Zhang has been performing around the world since he was 11 and is a member of the China Youth Percussion Orchestra.

Besides the marimba, he also plays snare drum timpani and vibraphone, and has won competitions including the China Youth Percussion Competition, the New York International Percussion Competition and the Tokyo International Percussion Competition.

The young music talent told Xinhua that in the future he would seize more competition and performance opportunities to improve his skills as well as to help more people enjoy percussion.

“I would like to have my own percussion band after graduation,” he said.

The BBC Young Musician competition was established in 1978. The percussion category was added in 1994, alongside the existing keyboard, string, brass and woodwind categories.

The biennial competition has five stages: regional auditions, category auditions, category finals, semi-finals and the final. Previous Young Musician winners include celebrated classical musicians such as cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and violinist Nicola Benedetti.