Xiaoxiao Yuan


Hometown: Nantong, China

Alma maters: Mannes School of Music, M.M.; Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore, B.M.; Music Middle School Affiliated to Shanghai Conservatory of Music

Photos by Matt Dine


Appearances: Imani Woodwind Festival, 2018; Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra, substitute, 2016

What is your earliest memory of classical music? Tom and Jerry. I thought it was classical music, but now I know it’s definitely not the typical classical music that we have been playing.

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? When I was 11, my parents and I had a talk about what I want to do in the future. I figured that my favorite course at school was music, so that’s how it started.

How did you hear about TŌN? What inspired you to apply? I passed by Jazz at Lincoln Center and I saw a giant audition announcement from TŌN. A couple of months later my friend Denis Savelyev got in this orchestra and he told me that the average playing skill in this orchestra is very high! Since then, I put TŌN on my audition plan. 

What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st Century? Audience age should be younger than it is right now. Programs should be combined with new music and standard orchestral music in order to attract music lovers from both sides. Playing movie music is always one of the best ways to introduce orchestral music to people. It’s gonna be so much easier for audiences to understand and start to like it.

Who is your biggest inspiration? My piano teacher. She made me understand how to make my playing sound colorful and interesting instead of playing like a typing machine. 

Which composer or genre of music do you feel you connect with the most? Pieces from the Classical period and Romantic period

What is your favorite piece of music, and why do you love it? I have too many pieces that are on my “like list,” it’s really hard to pick a favorite one. If I really have to pick only one piece, it would be Brahms’ Violin Concerto played by Itzhak Perlman. Whenever I listen to the second movement, I get a lot of goosebumps moments. 

What has been your favorite experience as a musician? We played Charlie Chaplin’s movie music with the silent movie screen behind us and conducted by Mr. Mark Gould! I loved that the audiences were super into the movie and laughing out loud without control!

Do you have any embarrassing performance stories? Yes, definitely! I get a headache just recalling them. Please don’t make me write them down. LOL

What is some advice you would give to your younger self? Always set a clear goal for yourself.  

Favorite non-classical musician or band: JJ Lin 

If you could play another instrument, what would it be? Flute. It’s so much lighter than the bassoon and I wouldn’t have to make reeds for it!

What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to and why? Utah. The sunset by the salt lake was gorgeous, and the starry sky in a ghost town without light pollution was incredibly breathtaking. 

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us: I took Krav Maga training in NYC just for losing weight and to learn how to protect myself. But I haven’t gotten a chance to beat anyone now that I know that New York City is safer than I thought! 

Piece of advice for a young classical musician: Don’t lock yourself in a practice room for too long. You should also exercise and go on some trips to keep yourself active and creative.