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Young violinist returns to Bemidji

Alan Zhou is back.

The young violinist from Ankeny, Iowa, has returned to Bemidji to make his second solo performance with the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra.

Alan, 13, performed with the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra two years ago. On Sunday, he will be the featured soloist at the orchestra's subscription concert, "Classic Dreams."

The concert will begin at 3 p.m. in the Bemidji High School Auditorium. Tickets will be available at the door along with season passes. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens. Admission for Bemidji School District students is free.

"We are honored to have Alan back with us," said Beverly Everett, music director of the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra. "He's extremely talented."

On Friday, Alan performed for students at three Bemidji elementary schools, taking time afterward to answer several of their questions.

Alan said he enjoyed visiting with the students because perhaps it will inspire them to become musicians and even choose music as a career.

He told students at Central Elementary School that he practices one hour to one and a half hours every day. He said he was 9 or 10 when he first played with an orchestra.

"I started playing violin when I was five," he said.

Born in Beijing in March 1994, Alan moved to the United States with his parents, Xiaohui Zhou and Xiaochun Yang, in 1998, according to Alan's biography. He began violin lessons at age 5 in Connecticut, before moving to Ankeny in 2002 when he joined the studio of Jonathan Sturm, associate professor at Iowa State University and concertmaster of the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra.

Alan has performed as a soloist with Oskaloosa Symphony Orchestra, Central Iowa Symphony Orchestra, Fort Dodge Area Symphony Orchestra and Meyer Chamber Orchestra in Des Moines. This summer, he will appear as a violin soloist with the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra at the annual outdoor concert, Yankee Doodle Pops, on the Iowa State Capitol grounds.

When Alan performed with the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra two years ago, Sturm was also a guest soloist at the concert. Everett learned of Alan from Sturm. She is friends with Sturm and his wife, Julie, the principal cellist with the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra.

Alan played one movement of a piece at his first Bemidji Symphony Orchestra concert. Wanting to give him the opportunity to play a solo for an entire concerto, Everett invited him back. Sunday's concert will be the first time Alan has ever performed a solo for an entire concerto, Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor.

"We also wanted to bring Alan back because the audience really loved him," Everett said.

Sunday's concert will also feature Dvorak's Symphony No. 8 in G major and Handel's Overture to Royal Fireworks.