The Resonate Podcast with Aideen

From China to Global Stages With Guitarist Xuefei Yang - Episode 53

June 05, 2024 Aideen Ni Riada Season 1 Episode 53
From China to Global Stages With Guitarist Xuefei Yang - Episode 53
The Resonate Podcast with Aideen
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The Resonate Podcast with Aideen
From China to Global Stages With Guitarist Xuefei Yang - Episode 53
Jun 05, 2024 Season 1 Episode 53
Aideen Ni Riada

Join us as we welcome Xuefei Yang, whose journey from China to international stages is nothing short of remarkable. Fei shares her story, from stumbling upon the guitar by chance in post-Cultural Revolution China to becoming the first guitarist to enter a music school in her homeland.

Fei offers invaluable insights into maintaining motivation, establishing a disciplined practice routine, and finding joy in the process rather than fixating on the outcome. We discuss realistic goal-setting and the importance of loving what you do, especially in the demanding world of classical music. Tune in to also hear about the upcoming New Ross Guitar Festival, where Fei's extraordinary talent will be on full display. Don't miss this engaging conversation filled with inspiration, practical advice, and a celebration of dedication to one's craft.

Connect with Xuefei

Facebook: @xuefeiyang
Instagram: @xuefeiyang_guitar
Twitter: @XuefeiYang

Support the Show.

Thanks for listening! To book a free consultation with Aideen visit https://www.confidenceinsinging.com/contact/

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Join us as we welcome Xuefei Yang, whose journey from China to international stages is nothing short of remarkable. Fei shares her story, from stumbling upon the guitar by chance in post-Cultural Revolution China to becoming the first guitarist to enter a music school in her homeland.

Fei offers invaluable insights into maintaining motivation, establishing a disciplined practice routine, and finding joy in the process rather than fixating on the outcome. We discuss realistic goal-setting and the importance of loving what you do, especially in the demanding world of classical music. Tune in to also hear about the upcoming New Ross Guitar Festival, where Fei's extraordinary talent will be on full display. Don't miss this engaging conversation filled with inspiration, practical advice, and a celebration of dedication to one's craft.

Connect with Xuefei

Facebook: @xuefeiyang
Instagram: @xuefeiyang_guitar
Twitter: @XuefeiYang

Support the Show.

Thanks for listening! To book a free consultation with Aideen visit https://www.confidenceinsinging.com/contact/

Aideen Ni Riada:

Welcome to the Resonate podcast with Aideen. I'm Aideen Ni Riada, and my guest today is the wonderful Xuefei Yang, the classical guitarist from China. And I'm going to just read just a few words about , who she said we can call her Fei to make it easier. So Fei's journey from very humble beginnings in China all the way to international acclaim serves as an inspiration to us all. She was born from the ashes of the Cultural Revolution in China. Fei defied the odds to become the first ever guitarist in China to enter a music school. Now she graces stages around the globe, captivating audiences with her virtuosity and passion for music.

Aideen Ni Riada:

I'm so excited to interview you today, Fei, because the reason that I get to do this is that we were put in touch by my brother-in-law, david Creavy, who is the artistic director for a wonderful guitar festival in my hometown of New Ross. The New Ross Guitar Festival is happening in 2024. If you're listening to this interview, later it's happening in the July of 2024. Of you, later it's happening in the July of 2024. And I know that in New Ross we're very excited to have you come and visit our hometown. Tell us a little bit about all of this. You know journey you've been on. You came from so humble beginnings. Why was the guitar such an unusual instrument for a Chinese person to choose to pursue in music school?

Xuefei Yang:

Hello, aideen, so happy to talk to you. I'm really looking forward to returning to Ireland, one of my favorite countries to play, you know, because I always feel comfortable there. As I mentioned to you before that I find that the culture in Ireland and in China somehow there are some similarities in our cultures, such as values of family, you know so. So anyway, so I'm really really looking forward to returning to Ireland. So, talking about my journey, well it's, I've come a long way.

Xuefei Yang:

When I was seven I started playing the guitar, but the guitar wasn't my choice. In fact, back then I didn't even know what a guitar was. So I was just an energetic child. And then my parents they were both teachers so my mom wanted me to learn the instrument to help calm me down, to help concentrating on academic studies. But back then she wanted me to study accordion with the music teacher in my school, because accordion was the most popular instrument. Because, you know, back then piano was very expensive and accordion was like the cheaper, cheaper uh keyboard to accompany choir. So there were lots of choirs in china. So she thought about accordion. But then, when she asked the music teacher in my school to teach me accordion, the teacher was organizing a guitar group. So she said, oh, why don't let she fit to join my guitar group? But actually that was a guitar group also, it's a choir as well. So we play the guitar to accompany singing rather than play accordion. So I just joined the guitar group as the youngest member. I didn't even know what guitar was. So now, looking back, that was a pure destiny. I guess I sometimes really feel that I didn't choose a guitar, it's the guitar choose me. And when I say that my school had this guitar group, I think it's very possibly that my school was the only school in the whole country which had a guitar group. So, yes, so that's a pure, pure destiny. But back then, because it was like just a few years after the cultural revolution, and during the cultural revolution nobody could study western art, not western instruments. So after that everything just started to revive, and so as western music.

Xuefei Yang:

But I'm talking about western music, it's the piano and the strings, and they have a long tradition in China. Guitar, especially classical guitar, doesn't have any tradition in China. It's only in the early 20th century. Some foreign teachers, they came into China and some what do you call it? Missionaries, religious people, missionaries, yes, they came in China, maybe these people they brought in guitar. So really the history, the tradition in china is very short, very, very, yeah. So, and then people in people's head guitar is a pop instrument. They know about pop groups like beatles, you know. Then they play the guitar to accompany singing, but but then at that time the pop music is associated with capitalism, which is not seen as very how do you say, very high class, you know. So the guitar is associated with not a very nice image.

Aideen Ni Riada:

Let's put it simply yeah, In China it was considered like a lowly instrument because it was mainly used for pop music. That's right. Yeah, that makes sense.

Xuefei Yang:

Not a serious instrument. But actually I find sometimes, even in the Western countries sometimes that's the case People talk about oh, you play guitar, oh, can you sing a song? They sing a guitar, it's just strumming a few chords. They don't think guitar is a serious instrument. So, yeah, so I guess everywhere is the same Classical guitar is kind of niche, yeah, so, anyway. So to cut my story short, so I loved the instrument and I showed talent, you know, better than other kids. Then I entered some international events and then I was told by the foreign experts that I could be a professional guitarist, that I could be a professional guitarist. So I thought, oh, I could be a guitarist, but I didn't have any idea what it means to be a professional musician or a professional guitarist. I have no idea what it means and how difficult it would be, but it's formed in my head. And then my teacher told me that the only way to be a professional musician was to enter a music school, a conservatory. But then, back then the conservatories in China were great but none of them had the guitar faculty. So I had to enter.

Xuefei Yang:

I first entered a middle school attached to Central Conservatory of Music, which is the best conservatory in China, but as an unofficial student, which means when I graduate from the school I wouldn't have a qualification. So my parents were very against to this choice of decision. But I was just 12. I, you know, I was 12 years old. I thought that maybe part of me was quite rebellious. I said I don't want to listen to my parents. I wanted to do what I wanted to do and I didn't think about the future. I didn't think about those practical things you know, how to make a living and a job and et cetera. So I entered the middle school and then now, looking back, it was quite a big risk to enter a school without the guarantee of guarantee of qualification.

Aideen Ni Riada:

Especially in the world of classical music, because in you know something like pop music, nobody asks you know what's your qualification in you know guitar before you perform. But if you wanted to, you know perform at the highest level, there would be an expectation of qualification, and having certain teachers that you've worked with that is part of building your credibility. So how did you get around that? As a musician moving into performing well.

Xuefei Yang:

In China, certainly, qualification, yeah, it's more valuable than here. I feel like in the West if you can play really well, probably people don't care about your qualification, but in China it's quite important. I had the guitar faculty, so I did graduate with a bachelor's degree. I was the first one to hold a bachelor's degree in guitar, but then also by that time it was a long time, from middle school to the to graduation with bachelor's degree is 10 years. During that years I had some opportunities to perform in Europe, namely Portugal and Spain, and so so I had an open-minded there. I thought that, wow, this is where I wanted to study music, because, you know, guitar is a Western instrument and I felt that back then I felt that I wanted to go abroad to study music.

Xuefei Yang:

And when I became an adult, I had more confusion about music making, musicianship and my future, because when I was really young I didn't think about that much and I had a good technique. And when I became an adult I started to think about these more things in more depth. So I thought that I wanted to go to the west. But then, long story short things in more depth. So I thought that I wanted to go to the West. But then cut it short. Cut the long story short. Then I was lucky that I got a scholarship, a full scholarship from from ABRSM in England, which allowed me to, which enabled me to come to Royal Academy of Music to pursue a postgraduate course. So I'd say that I was trained with very good techniques in China and then when I, after I came to UK, you know, my mind was open, opened, my ears opened and then I, I gained my musicianship.

Aideen Ni Riada:

So so yeah, what a beautiful journey. And so like, from such an unlikely start, as you say, such a random, I've got this guitar group. What would you say to someone you know? Maybe some young people are going to be listening to this podcast. What do you say to young people that have that, that desire to pursue music, and when they come up up with obstacles, what would you advise for them?

Xuefei Yang:

well, I used to say that. I used to say that first you really need to have a passion. I really you really need to have talent. These two are very important. And support also very important. I mean, my parents were against to my choice but in the end they did support with my choice, you know, and they spent lots of money, you know, to buy a professional guitar for me. To be honest, you know they wouldn't even tell my grandparents because my grandparents wouldn't understand why you spent so much money on buying a guitar, you know. Anyway, back to the advice to teenagers, I used to say that to have your passion and the love of what you do and stick to it. But sometimes now I feel like it seems not enough because, to be honest, I feel that if you if you're how to say, if you just be honest, you know, if, if, if you just stick to it, but if your ability is not good enough I'm just talking honestly. You know how to say this.

Aideen Ni Riada:

Yeah, yeah, no, I see what you're saying. Yeah, there's a certain elitism in certain types of music that you have to make a decision what where you fit in the spectrum because I feel like there's a there's, there's a place for everyone within music like it, even somebody who plays in the local bar.

Aideen Ni Riada:

You know there's a spectrum of what, where you can go and how far you can get, and so it's good to to be a bit practical, but also to aim a little higher maybe than you think you can, yes, but then to not be too unhappy if you end up, you know, maybe not performing quite as much as you would like or as quite as high a level as you might like.

Xuefei Yang:

That's a really good point, yeah, so I say, but the love is really is important. Because the thing is, if you don't love your, your, your job or your career or your life enough, or your, your craft, and then you will find it's really difficult. Musical career is difficult, but maybe any other career is difficult, but then if you love it, then you won't feel it or maybe you feel less difficulty. But then if you don't love it enough, if you want to do it for making money or for for your, your face, you know, for showing off, then you will find it very difficult in any field. So I think to have the fashion and the love is very, is very important.

Xuefei Yang:

But at the same time as you say, you need to be realistic with what you fit in the, in the you know this big black room, and maybe being realistic, but put your bar a little bit higher so you can push yourself a bit more and in the end I really feel that you enjoy the process. But not to be frustrated by the result, that is very important because I think you can aim high, especially when you're young. Right, you can aim high. But when the things don't come to your way, you can easily feel frustrated or feel feel bad, but maybe we should avoid that. So in the end, in the end of the day, we need to enjoy the process and care less about the result. But this is easy to say, it's hard to to achieve, I guess.

Aideen Ni Riada:

Yeah, that's a really good piece of advice. You know being in the moment, being in the moment, enjoying your practice as well, so I can imagine I'm just guessing here that practice is your biggest job, the one you spend almost the most time on. Tell us a little bit about that discipline that you had to build within yourself and if you have any advice you know about that yes, definitely.

Xuefei Yang:

I think discipline is very important. As you say, we have to practice certain hours every day since a very young age. I have to say that no matter how much you love your music, no matter how much I love playing guitar, I love playing but it doesn't mean that I'll enjoy practicing every day. You know, I think everybody the same, no matter how much you love your job, it doesn't mean that you enjoy it every moment or every day. So there are lots of times I feel that I don't want to practice. But then I think the thing is is the, the, the core drive is when I think about that.

Xuefei Yang:

I really wanted to perform well, I really want to convey my music to the audience, I really want to to move them. And then that what do you call that? Motivation? That's motivation. Then that will make me think, oh, I better practice now and not just practice physically. You know, and practice with meaning and practice with. You know directions and with thoughts.

Xuefei Yang:

So I think motivation is important. Otherwise we all have the lazy moment. And then technically, of course, I will find different ways to give myself that motivation, like finding different music, you know. I think to keep interest and keep curiosity is very important. I think that's why I feel like I have a wide range of tastes in music and I'm curious about, oh, what this music is like, or what's the background or why it's become like this, and then, during the process, to do the research and to find out and to actually play it, and then you, you get more interest. So I think keeping the curiosity is quite important to keep your interest in the, in the music and the motivation you know of that you really want to do something well and that puts you to practice every day.

Aideen Ni Riada:

Yeah, Beautiful and I know from any habit that we create, whether that's practice or anything else that we would like to achieve, that it becomes. You know, something that needs to be kind of routine. Do you have any tips for how or how long you practice, or when you practice, or what? How do you arrange or when you practice, or what? How do you arrange that to make it easier for yourself?

Xuefei Yang:

I think it's a bit easier to have a routine when you are younger. You only need to go to school and practice and do some academic work. That's it. So your life is kind of you can you know, and your parents does. You know the housework for you and the way you become adult. You have more things to do and also I feel like I wanted to have a life as well, and then I feel I have things to say in my music. So in a way I guess it's harder to have a routine.

Xuefei Yang:

But again, my motivation is I want to play well. I want to play well until old age and every time when I think about that I thought I better to practice every day. So I say that if I do have a routine, I would say that I try to to even just play a little bit. You know I try to. I try to practice most of the days, maybe maybe one day, one day a week and most I'll put the guitar away. So to keep my physical ability especially when you get older you lose the. You know some of them. I mean I I will try to prevent losing any physical dexterity and then if I practice, I'll try to make sure that warm up. That's very important because you don't want to get injury. Same as uh athletes and uh and when practice.

Xuefei Yang:

It's different. When I was a teenager I would try to play difficult pieces and try to exaggerate things, but now I try to save my physical energy. Actually, sometimes I practice on a little bit smaller guitar and I don't play too loud to try to save my energy, and it's more like practicing through mind with what I want to do, the coordination, focus on the coordination. You know, technically and musically, really think, use my brain more. That's the advantage we have when we're older, you know. So I use my brain more to think what I'm trying to achieve technically or musically. But when I was younger, you know, probably I do more hours physically but I don't I think less so. So I guess we could make up on the the time that we lost on practice, but make it up by thinking more carefully um, I love that that's.

Aideen Ni Riada:

I think that's actually something that could really be a game changer for someone listening. Um, I know that in sports that's actually something that could really be a game changer for someone listening. I know that in sports that's considered a very you know positive approach. You know where you're kind of looking for this biofeedback from just thinking through the physical motions, and there's been research, I believe, that shows that you improve your performance through mentally practicing.

Xuefei Yang:

I believe so too. Yes, Because it's all controlled by the brain.

Aideen Ni Riada:

Absolutely. Your brain is the one telling your hands what to do, right? Yes, so you mentioned earlier how you've got a big curiosity different kind of styles of music. Tell us a little bit about some of the pieces that you love to play that aren't strictly classical.

Xuefei Yang:

I mean most of the classical guitarists. They will play classical repertoire, kind of traditional classical repertoire. So my program will consist of some pieces from my country, China, and that is. You know, you rarely hear them played on guitar, and some pieces, like they, maybe belong to popular music. You know Brazilian popular music. So Bossa Nova and what else Do? I have some. Anyway, it's a big, big range of styles music in my program. So I feel that guitar is a such a versatile instrument. You see that a lot in the pop music, you'll see that in rock and roll music and also in classical music and it's such a versatile instrument it can do a lot of different music. So I'd like to show that side of music. So so in that concert in July it will have different styles Spanish, Chinese, Latin, Bossa Nova.

Aideen Ni Riada:

Well, I'm sure it'll be an amazing concert and I know that you're going to be. Um, you've been working on recording new pieces, um, would you like to tell us a little bit about your latest project and what you're excited to be recording now?

Xuefei Yang:

yes, I'm a very proud, um proud, proud at my proud with proud, with my recordings. Actually I, looking back, I've done a variety of recordings solos, chambers, and Brazilian Baroque Spanish. So the new recording that's going to come out is called Songs of Joys and Sorrow. That is a recording I did with cellist Johannes Moser. So it's an album consists mainly songs that relate to our personal life, personal growth. So have John Dowland, you know Renaissance English lute masters, lute song masters, and Schubert, the romantic, big romantic composer, and Faya, manuel de Faya is a Spanish, the Spanish composer, and some modern music written by Chinese composers. So, yes, so it's an album of, again, a variety of music and cello.

Xuefei Yang:

Cello is very lyrical, you know very. It's a lyric instrument which sound is very similar to human voice. And then the guitar is very intimate and is very supportive. You know, guitar and cello, I think it's a beautiful combination. So this is the upcoming recording. That's wonderful. And also some pieces I'm going to play in my concert, in my concert in new ross festival, are from my latest solo album, which is called guitar favorites. So that album consists lots of how to say? The album consists the most classic pieces of the classical guitar repertoire. Also, those pieces relate to certain moments of my musical journey, some key moments, so it's kind of guitar. An album tells my personal musical journey. So it's a very personal album. But also I hope that general audience will like it too, because there are lots of well-known pieces of the guitar.

Aideen Ni Riada:

Well, you speak so beautifully about your journey. I hope that during your concert, maybe when you introduce the pieces, that you talk a little bit about them. Is that something you do sometimes?

Xuefei Yang:

oh, I do that all the time. Yes, I think that, especially guitar concerts, I feel that when you play in the intimate, intimate venue and when the people sitting so close to you and you go on stage, I feel this odd to not telling them that what I'm playing and why I'm choosing a piece and how I feel about the piece. So I feel that it's very important to tell the audience how I feel about this music and then probably that can help them to understand the music and to feel the music more. So, yeah, so I always do introduce the music and also talk about a little bit more of my personal understanding about the repertoire. So that's what I usually do.

Aideen Ni Riada:

I love. I am so excited for your concert and I feel that it will be very accessible from what you're saying. I hope so.

Xuefei Yang:

Usually that I pick. You know wide repertoire, so some people know that. I hope if some people they know the instrument and then they will enjoy it. Or if some people know that I hope if some, uh, some people they know the instrument and then they will enjoy it. Or if some people don't really know about the classical guitar, they would also enjoy it. So hopefully my repertoire will achieve that kind of result.

Aideen Ni Riada:

Hopefully I can make some new fans to, to to my instrument and I know that they can find your music then on Spotify and all the usual platforms and that you'll be have some albums available. That's right At the concert.

Xuefei Yang:

Yes, I will take some physical copies, but you can find all my recordings on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube.

Aideen Ni Riada:

Beautiful and I will be putting some your contact website with the show notes for today's podcast and I'd just like to thank you so much for taking the time to come on here and share so much of the background behind your music and your. Some of your advice I think was really beautiful and I think it'll make a difference to people. Is there anything before we finish up? Is there anything that you would also like to say to the listeners?

Xuefei Yang:

I just feel that with my I'm growing uh, older now, so I just feel so lucky that I have music in my life. It's like a forever soulmate you know, and the guitar you know when play it, you hold it with your body and play it in the evening. It's like a forever, forever friend. So I just want to say to everybody I hope that you can find that your soulmate in you know in terms of art, and it's just so lucky to have some kind of art form in your in life. I think if you know what your passion is, that is the biggest luck we have, I think that's beautiful advice, fa.

Aideen Ni Riada:

Thank you so much. Thank you to everyone who's been listening today. We really appreciate you taking the time to listen and we wish you all well with your own creative pursuits. And if you're anywhere in near New Ross in Ireland, we would encourage you to get your tickets soon for Faye's concert in New Ross, and the details will be in the show notes. It's the newrossguitarfestivalcom and we look forward to having people come from all over Ireland to come and see you, because the quality and the level of guitar playing that's going to be there this summer is going to be phenomenal.

Xuefei Yang:

Thank you so much, faye, for being here thank you, aideen, I really enjoyed chatting with you, thank you. Thank you everyone for listening.

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