Behind the persona of every artist lies a human being, just like you and I. The Human Diaries series thus explores the multifaceted lives of our musicians, which gained popularity during Season 1 last year. Expect the unexpected in Season 2 as we step into the homes and favourite places of our musicians, conductors, and Composer-in-Residence, discovering stories untold.



Cello principal Xu Zhong and liuqin musician Zhang Li are a power couple in SCO, walking on this music journey together. Join them as they recount their wonderful experience performing during SCO’s Europe tour back in 2019, and also their experiences as music teachers!

Text: Sean Goh & Oh Hui Yin

Photo: Singapore Chinese Orchestra

Most memorable memory: SCO Europe Tour 2019

Musicians plies their trade on stage, under the spotlight. Each round of performance will bring about many different emotions, creating special memories. This applies for Xu Zhong and Zhang Li as well. The couple shares an uncountable amount of memories of performing together on stage. 

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When asked which their favourite was, the couple unanimously shared that it was the 2019 Europe Tour. They still remember how heartfelt it was when they saw Singaporeans in the audience waving our nation's flag proudly at the end of the concert.

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 (Screenshot from Human Diaries video)

Not only that, SCO was also granted the special privilege of performing at the ancient theatre of Dodoni in Loannina - a sacred theatre not generally open to the public. 

The is one of the largest and best-preserved ancient theatres in Greece – the orchestra was surrounded by oracles that had been inhabited since the bronze age. 

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(Screenshot from Human Diaries video)

Xu Zhong described “I was in tip-top condition that day, it was especially comfortable playing my instrument. That was a feeling which I never experienced before.”

He felt that it was a very mystical place which brings comfort to people. Zhang Li echoed his sentiment, sharing that “the music that day was most divine”.

Most important calling: To serve the community

Being in SCO for many years, Xu Zhong and Zhang Li felt that, the most important calling they have is to better serve the community. This is also in line with SCO’s vision, to be a world-renowned Chinese Orchestra. As such, they are devoted to cultivating a larger audience, especially the younger generation.

Being friendly and approachable, Xu Zhong as Zhang Li were well-received by their students. Xu Zhong fondly recalled “On our birthdays and Teacher’s Day, they would prepare handmade gifts, penning down their appreciation for us.”

Students' appreciation fuelled their motivation to be even better teachers for future youth. As they described, “this made us feel that our hard work is not in vain”.

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(Screenshots from Human Diaries video)

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(Screenshots from Human Diaries video)

When sharing about their interesting experience being a teacher, Zhang Li took out a figurine of a dog poodle, saying that it was a thoughtful gift from one of her students.

She said “We have a dog at home and its name is ‘Guai Guai’. Guai Guai is no stranger to our students. One of our students custom-made this for me, according to the size and look of our dog and gave us this little present.”

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(Screenshot form Human Diaries video)

Not going to lie, this was a really touching moment for me as a pet owner.  

Most important quality of being a teacher: Patience

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(Screenshot from Human Diaries video)

Being a teacher can be challenging at times, especially when facing with a bunch of students who are very active.

To Zhang Li, there are no other shortcuts other than being patient with them. This sounds simple, but it is a thing many people lack.

As she shared, “we are very patient, and understanding when teaching”

Putting things into context, Zhang Li described that this is especially so when you are in a school class setting, with 30 teenagers staring at you. Some will try to be sneaky and make funny faces to get attention.

Sometimes, you really won’t know what to do with them and you’ll lose your temper if you can’t be patient and understanding.

“There was once I ran out of ideas, usually I am patient but that day I wasn’t, then I screamed ‘keep quiet!’”

This shout, by the usual demure Zhang Li, shocked the whole class. She thought it was just a passing incident and never expects her students to remember it so vividly.

A week later, which was the Teacher’s Day, her students did a card for her and illustrated an angry Zhang Li shouting “OH!”, to imitate the incident.

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(Screenshot from Human Diaries video)

This rang a bell for her that students are very attentive and observant to everything teachers do and say.

This became a constant reminder for Zhang Li to be more self-aware of her emotions and understanding when she is having lessons or interacting with students.


If you haven't caught Xu Zhong and Zhang Li's Human Diaries episode, click here.


Thank you for following through the article thus far. Here, we share some bonus behind-the-scenes moments:

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The couple sharing about their memorable moments in life 

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