THE FACTS: Born in Sichuan, China. Bachelor’s degree from China’s Central Conservatory; master’s degree from Rutgers University. Prior to the Philharmonic: solo debut at age 13 in China; recipient of Menuhin Prize and winner of various awards and competitions. Teaches at the Manhattan School of Music and the Gonggeng Academy, a summer music program in China. At the Philharmonic: Joined in November 1995
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE CELLO? My dad was principal cellist of the China Broadcasting Symphony. During the Cultural Revolution, he was sent to a farm for two years. When he returned, he felt that my sister and I had not received a sufficient education, so he taught us — and, later, my half-sister — the cello, and we all became professional cellists.
WHAT WAS YOUR PATH FROM CHINA TO THE US? In 1983 I had been an exchange student at the Sydney Conservatorium in Australia, and then taught for two years at the Central Conservatory. When I left China, I was allowed to take out only 30 US dollars. It was tough. I went first to UC–Santa Barbara on a scholarship, and then to Rutgers to work with the cellist Bernard Greenhouse. I had heard him play in Australia and was amazed at his sound; I really wanted to study with him. He and his family were like family to me.
WHEN DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU WANTED TO BE A PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN? From the first lesson I sensed that it would be my life.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT WITH THE PHILHARMONIC? Before I joined the Philharmonic I had subbed with the Orchestra. My first concert was Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem with Kurt Masur. I was excited and nervous — suddenly I was sitting next to famous musicians. I was shocked by the Orchestra’s great sound.
HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR MUSIC-MAKING FRESH? If you have a fresh mind every day and look forward to something cheerful and happy, every day is a fresh day.
IF YOU COULD PLAY ANOTHER INSTRUMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE? As a kid I probably would have liked to try a brass instrument. Now, I don’t know.
DO YOUR KIDS PLAY INSTRUMENTS TOO? My older daughter, Emily, plays piano and composes and will be graduating from law school this year. My younger daughter, Lucia, plays flute and is applying for master’s degree programs in education.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF WORK? Study Chinese art. I also cook Chinese dishes — I’m cooking all the time!
As of December 2018