P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans


Julie Zhu, 2015

MFA, Hunter College of the City University of New York

Julie Zhu is the child of immigrants from China

Fellowship awarded to support work towards an MFA in Painting at Hunter College of the City University of New York

Julie's parents were part of the first class of students to graduate from college in China after the Cultural Revolution, during which time universities had closed their doors for more than a decade. Both mathematicians, Julie's parents came to the United States to pursue graduate school.

Like her parents, Julie's first passion was math, but growing up, she felt increasingly drawn to the arts. She cartooned for The Washington Post, and her paintings were exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery after she was named a Presidential Scholar in both academics and visual art.

Julie went on to Yale University, where she double-majored in mathematics and art, enjoying the freedom to pursue both fields simultaneously. As a freshman, she added to these lifelong devotions the carillon, the world's heaviest musical instrument-a tower of hanging bells played by a wooden keyboard. After graduating, she pursued advanced carillon studies at the Royal Carillon School in Belgium, while also painting and exhibiting her work abroad.

Julie has since given numerous recitals around the world as a professional carillonist. During her time as an artist in New York City, she was also the resident carillonist for Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Her artistic work then, sitting at the intersection of music, mathematics and visual representation, shifted towards music composition.

Her work now is still conceptual and transdisciplinary, operating on an expansive definition of algorithm. During her doctorate in music composition at Stanford University, Julie wrote and performed for various contemporary music ensembles and soloists, including Wu Wei, Marco Fusi, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, JACK quartet, Quasar, Line Upon Line, Semblance, and Dal Niente. In the last year, premieres have been presented by Radio France, Sansusī Festival, nonclassical, 3537, and Fondation Royaumont.

Currently, Julie is a President’s postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan with a special interest in creatively and ethically composing with AI, where she continues to compose and play carillon.

  • DMA Music Composition | Stanford University 2023
  • MFA Painting | Hunter College of the City University of New York 2017
  • BA Mathematics, Art | Yale University 2012
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