Student Spotlight: A Minute with Alexander Zhang

In May, Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month, Indian Hill student Alexander Zhang spearheaded a pair of online recitals to celebrate our AAPI community while bringing awareness to the sharp increase in anti-Asian discrimination and violence since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Zhang, 17, a pianist and oboist, is a junior at Acton Boxborough Regional High School, and a student of piano faculty Monica Tessitore and woodwind faculty Henry Tervo.


What inspired you to put on these virtual recitals at Indian Hill?
AZ: A combination of things really set this event in motion. The first was the horrible shooting that occurred in Atlanta, Georgia back in March. The second was the mobilization of my friends and Asian American peers at school who, through their own clubs and activities, started raising awareness and spreading information about AAPI heritage and struggles. All this really inspired me to do something myself and I figured that the best way for me to contribute to this cause was through something I was good at: music. I knew, from years of studying here, that a major percentage of Indian Hill students are of AAPI descent and I knew how deep music runs in this community. Taking advantage of this, I was able to host this event thanks to help from Indian Hill staff members Pete Robbins and Lauren Panfili.


What was the response from participating student musicians?
AZ: The response was incredible and a lot bigger than I expected. There were 17 students of all ages and backgrounds from elementary schoolers to adults and it was really inspiring to see such diversity and support throughout our community.


What was the response from audience members?
The response was, again, amazing. There were teachers from my school, teachers from Indian Hill, parents, and students from both places emailing me saying how they supported the cause and loved the concept of the event. I really appreciate how far this event was able to reach as there were so many people I didn’t know reaching out in support. A lot of my friends attended the event and I’d like to thank them for helping me as well.


What takeaways do you hope our community received from this event?
The major takeaway I’d like for people to see is that everyone shares something in common. Whether it’s music, a hobby, a sport, anything can act as common ground for a community to come together and support each other. These are really tough times for everyone and people are more isolated than ever. Thus, connecting with one another is critical. When terrible things happen, it’s tremendously important that we spread both awareness and assistance to those involved by communicating through our tight community.


There’s a charity I would like to share that’s called the AAPI Community Fund. Through this GoFundMe, the AAPI Community Fund distribues grants to local community-based organizations across the country to help raise awareness and aid. Here’s the link: