Xinran Li

Violin

Hometown: Hangzhou, China 

Alma mater: Bard College Conservatory of Music, B.M. Violin 2020, B.A. Studio Arts 2020

Instagram: @xinran_li

Photos by Matt Dine

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Awards/Competitions: Winner, 2019 Bard College Conservatory Concerto Competition

What is your earliest memory of classical music? I saw Anne-Sophie Mutter on TV on my third birthday and told my mom I wanted to play. 

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? Ever since I was a little kid

How did you hear about TŌN? What inspired you to apply? I learned about TŌN throughout the years I was studying at Bard. The great program, performance opportunities, vast range of repertoire, and its excellent professional level made me want to apply.

What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st Century? It should keep its tradition, but at the same time explore contemporary music, trying new ways of performing music and promoting young composers. 

Who is your biggest inspiration? My parents, and my teachers in the past, both in music and art. 

Which composer or genre of music do you feel you connect with the most? I have loved Beethoven and Michael Jackson since I was around 10 years old. I would listen to their CDs every day. There’s something spiritually similar between them. I also love 80s music, and I love any sound from an old gramophone.

What is your favorite piece of music, and why do you love it? I remember I would go to sleep listening to Michael Jackson’s song “Heal the World.” I still love it. I also love Billy Joel’s “Vienna,” Nina Simone’s “Ain’t Got No, I Got Life,” the third movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 132 . . . there’s a few. It’s usually not about the music itself but the memories of the times when I heard it or the people that I was with. 

What has been your favorite experience as a musician? Traveling while playing concerts, maybe my favorite two things combined! 

Do you have any embarrassing performance stories? When I was younger I didn’t really know how to practice effectively. I had a video of me performing Bach’s Violin Concerto in E-major. I forgot the music and pretended I knew what to play, but I was all over the place and the pianist was flipping through the score trying to find where I was. 

What is some advice you would give to your younger self? Let things go with the flow.

Favorite non-classical musician or band: Leonardo Cohen

If you could play another instrument, what would it be? Cello

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? Interior designer, or living on an island and doing whatever job I could find. 

What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to and why? I got engaged in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, so it has a special place in my heart. And I took a trip with my high school friends to Bali after we graduated high school. I often look back at the pictures of that trip and think about when we’ll be able to reunite. 

Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with and why? I haven’t seen my parents for two years, so they would be the first people I want to see. After that, I would really want to see my three best friends from middle school to high school. They are all over the world now; it’s unbelievable that we used to be in school together everyday. 

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us: I had a monotype painting show a year ago. Bard helped me discover my passion for the visual arts and I am so grateful for that. I even had my own studio to myself for a year to complete the project. I have a strong interest in the connection between color and sound. 

Also, I have a German Shepard mix and a one-eyed, deaf cat. They are the best.

Piece of advice for a young classical musician: Don’t let music steal your life. Live with music.