This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and style.
Why did you decide to study at Colburn?
I decided to study here because of Mr. Beaver. I had the opportunity to play for him in 2015, when I was 15. I knew right away that he was the teacher I wanted to study with, and that he was who I needed for my playing, but I never imagined I would be able to study with him so quickly through the Music Academy.
What I love about Mr. Beaver is that he has everything and can teach me so much. He has helped me a lot with details and I am constantly learning how to communicate and express myself in a more refined way through working with him. When I hear him play, his phrasing and musicality and everything else is incredible; it’s overwhelming.
Studying with Mr. Beaver at Colburn was the best decision I’ve ever made. It was kind of a big decision to leave home early but I’m so glad I did it. At home, I don’t have the privilege of playing in a hall for Academy concerts, or walking across the street and listening to an amazing concert, or having access to a practice room 24 hours a day. All of that makes the Colburn experience, and it’s been great for me.
What has been your favorite thing about Colburn?
I can’t pick just one thing, it’s everything all together. But if I had to choose, something I love being a part of is my studio. We’re a family of nine, 10 including Mr. Beaver, and I feel like I have seven older siblings in the Conservatory and one little sister in the Academy too. It’s the best environment, because it’s one that lets me open my ears and mature as a performer. Once a week, we have studio class and we all play for each other, comment on each other’s playing, and hear what Mr. Beaver has to say. It’s my favorite time. I get to be inspired by all the performances, because they’re all so different but so good.
You also play in the Academy Virtuosi, the conductorless ensemble. What is that experience like?
Really, really amazing. I’ve had some experience in orchestra but I’ve never experienced a string orchestra. The Academy Virtuosi is two hours in my week where I can learn and grow through rehearsals, especially from Ms. Batjer, who leads it. Hearing the other kids in the Academy, who are incredible, leaves me awestruck. That was one of my biggest first impressions of Colburn: how amazing everyone is.
Performing in an ensemble without a conductor is definitely different. We’re forced to really communicate with each other on what we’re doing, to stay together or to keep our musical ideas consistent. During rehearsals, Ms. Batjer will sometimes tell us, ‘I’m not going to be here, I’m going to be stepping out. You guys have to feel this now so you can do it in performance.’
What are some ways that you think classical musicians can expand their audiences?
I heard this over the summer and I completely agree: the world is changing and we have to adapt to audiences, but it’s also important to stay true to classical music. The music by itself, is enough to move people, so I don’t think we need to change it. Instead, we should try to get more people to listen to it by doing more outreach. This is already happening, of course. I personally perform at a lot of hospitals, senior centers, churches, and local community centers. I haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet in LA, except for in church and through the outreach program in the Academy, but I do go to a lot of these places at home since I’m more familiar with the area. Once you experience what you can actually do in these places, you want to do it more. It’s always super fulfilling, at least for me. I know many people gain energy from being on stage but it’s also worth it seeing how powerful it can be to perform at these outreach venues. You can just tell from their faces.
Why do you love music?
I’ve always had this special connection to music since I was young. My name in Chinese characters means the jasmine flower scent of the Lord, and I’ve always felt that the meaning applied most when I performed music. When I’m performing, I want to be able to share the hope and peace that this scent represents. That’s always been my drive, to communicate that in my performances.
The first piece I fell in love with, which I know is common, is the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. I remember that when I was really young, I found that piece on YouTube and sat through the entire 40 minutes. That was the first time I did something like that on my own, listening to the whole thing. That’s what kickstarted me when I first started playing.