OM Derek Zhao shares his musical journey and role within the New York Youth Symphony

OM Derek Zhao shares his musical journey and role within the New York Youth Symphony

Derek Zhao is an award-winning trumpeter. He has significant musical experience as the principal trumpeter in the Imperial College Symphony Orchestra and, as their concert tour manager, organises many shows throughout Europe. Derek is a portfolio manager at a multi-strategy hedge fund and holds a B.Eng degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Imperial College, and an M.Sc in Finance from the London School of Economics. 

“After graduating from university, I began my career in finance. Unsurprisingly, I found myself surrounded by a slew of white-shirt-wearing-finance-bros. realising that I would never own a Patagonia vest or learn how to play pickleball, so I decided to get involved in a community of New York’s like-minded music nerds who found themselves in a variety of industries. I love going into a room and asking someone “What instrument do you play?” instead of “What do you do?” - Derek. 

Derek currently serves on the Board of the New York Youth Symphony (NYYS) and plays a pivotal role on the music director selection committee. This year, the NYYS achieved a remarkable milestone, winning a Grammy award for Best Orchestral Performance – the first time a youth orchestra has received such recognition at the Grammy’s. 

Derek’s musical journey also finds expression within the New York Piano Society, where he is a performing member. Together with the society, he performs at the Carnegie Hall, Kaufman Music Centre, among others. 

When asked about the driving force behind his passion for music and his dedication for serving on the NYYS board, Derek commented: “As we progress into the future, the integration of AI into our daily lives is likely to have a significant impact on the future generations. The ready availability of information may also lead to a decline in critical thinking. AI may even be able to predict the decision-making of future generations better than they can predict themselves. One of my key purposes is to empower future generations to develop a higher sense of self-awareness, soft skills, and emotional intelligence - qualities that remain uniquely human and cannot be replaced by computers. 

"In my own experience, I will always remember the first time I played the trumpet as a soloist on stage at the age of 6, and the feeling of accomplishment and connection as the audience fell into a hushed silence to listen to me. It was a moment that I first understood the power of managing my own emotions and touching those of others, thereby kindling a sense of lasting emotional resonance.” 

When discussing Derek's experiences at Millfield and how his connections with the school and peers have enriched his musical journey, he shared: “Millfield School's distinguished international alumni network is truly one of a kind. Connecting with individuals from around the world has expanded my horizons and presented me with invaluable opportunities.  

“At Millfield, bonds are forged that endure a lifetime. The experience of living and learning together creates a tight-knit community that supports one another, fostering personal growth and lifelong friendships.” 

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