YeYe Xu

YeYe Headshot

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your life. Not necessarily music-related!

I’m 23, my star sign is Cancer and my Chinese zodiac is the Pig, which can only explain my insatious appetite and preference in any meal for seafood. I’m also left-handed, which makes handwriting rather awkward.

I grew up in Edinburgh but my roots are Chinese – my name literally means ‘leaf leaf’. After attending St Mary’s Music School for 6 years, I read Law with European Legal Studies at King’s College London and the University of Strasbourg, graduating with Upper Second-Class Honours and the Routledge Criminology Prize.

I love playing chamber and symphonic music, teaching and coaching. I was Principal Violin of NYO for 2 years and I led NYOS at the BBC Proms in 2016. I was the only British volunteer tutor at El Sistema France (Alsace), and I’ve mentored at NYO, NYOS and in amateur and university ensembles, including King’s College London Symphony Orchestra.

At the moment I live in North London and work at the Royal Philharmonic Society. Outside office hours I read, write and play music wherever and whenever I can.

How did you first get into music?

I auditioned for the City of Edinburgh Music School at the age of 4 singing ‘Head Shoulders Knees and Toes’, blanks and silences included. No joke.

My diction must have been spectacular, for I was offered a place. I started piano lessons aged 5 and violin a year later, and I also sang in a children’s choir – Waverley Singers – for several years.

What made you decide that music would be an important part of your life?

Very difficult to place an answer to this question!

The philosopher in me would say that there never has been a single definitive turning point. I decide it’s going to be important to me each day, every morning when I wake up. I choose what concerts and operas I want to see, and what music to practise.

Music is good for me, like eating my vegetables. Playing music makes me feel free and superhuman, and once you’ve got that sensation, it’s so very hard to keep it out of your life.

The historian in me would say there have been several turning points: choosing to go to St Mary’s Music School; not studying music at university, but ending up playing all the time anyway; realising there is no one way to do music or be a musician, and you can make it your own.

What has been your musical highlight so far?

If I may be permitted to have two…

My 18th birthday. I was performing at Buckingham Palace with NYO for the Coronation Festival, sharing the stage with Katie Melua, Eric Whitacre and English National Ballet and other stars.

Playing a solo at the BBC Proms on a really beautiful Ceruti violin which was worth double my student loan, and which I’ll probably never see again.

Who are your favourite composers/artists/musicians?

Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Strauss, Ravel, Mozart, Carole King, Nina Simone, Janelle Monae, Laura Mvula, Chick Corea, Bill Evans, Chris Thile & Brian Mehldau, Nederlands Kamerorkest/Gordan Nikolitch, Scottish Ensemble, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Grayson Perry, David Hockney, Bjork, Kazuo Ishiguro, Maya Angelou

What do you anticipate for the Nevis Ensemble?

In 2017 I was invited to join the Ricciotti Ensemble on their Scottish Fling tour. It absolutely blew my mind and changed my perception of what was ‘possible’ in music and in orchestra. Every performance was fresh and unpredictable – a real party on stage – and I’m expecting much of the same in Nevis Ensemble. High calibre musicians playing out of their skins and sharing the joy of music with audiences all over Scotland.

It’s also been several years since I moved to London, so I’m hoping to reconnect with my old home in some way through our performances and through meeting the Scottish community.