The Facts: Born in Nanjing, China. Bachelor’s and master of music degrees from the New England Conservatory. Prior to the Philharmonic: member of The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; performed in the Boston, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta symphony orchestras and The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. At the Philharmonic: Joined in December 2017.
Why did you choose the violin? When I was four years old I saw some kids playing the violin on TV. I told my grandmother that I wanted a violin, and she bought me one. I was afraid to show it to my mom because I thought she’d be mad at me for getting a toy, but when she found out she was very happy. I had asthma and she thought it would make me stronger — and she was right!
Who were your most important musical influences? My mom gave all of her time outside of work as an engineer to help me. Every Saturday for five years, starting when I was seven, she would take the train with me, five hours each way, so I could study with an amazing teacher in Shanghai. On Sunday she practiced with me all day. I am also grateful to my violin teachers: Lina Yu set me up with a strong foundation and was like a second mother to me, and with Donald Weilerstein a whole new world of musicality and imagination opened up for me.
Most inspiring composers: When I’m having a bad day, Mozart lifts me up. Beethoven’s music has drama, struggle, and vulnerability. And I love Richard Strauss’s heartfelt melodies.
Most memorable moments with the Philharmonic: Performing the Mozart Requiem in 2019. I noticed in the first row a man sobbing, his wife’s head on his shoulder to comfort him. My tears started coming and I thought, this is why we play music. Performing in my hometown this summer was also very meaningful — it was my grandmother’s first time seeing me perform with the Philharmonic.
What do you do in your free time? I love cooking for my friends. I’ve noticed that a lot of musicians are great cooks: it’s also a form of art, looking for that special flavor and exploring different techniques and ingredients.
What’s your advice for aspiring musicians? Not to lock yourself in the practice room, but to go out and live life — read a lot of books, travel, get to know a lot of different people. You of course have to spend a lot of time with your instrument, but when you learn about the world you can find your musical voice better.
As of September 2019