Spotlight on Yang Liu, Associate Principal Second Violin

Harold B. & Betty Justice Chair


Tell us a little about your background (where you’re from, experience prior to the CSO, etc).

I was born in Wuhan, China. I learned to play violin when I was four years old. Before I came to America, I was a student of music in the high school attached to the central Conservatory in Beijing. The year 2009 was when I get a full scholarship to attend the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. In 2013 I received my Bachelor's, followed by a Master's degree in 2015.

What kind of hobbies do you have? How do you spend your time when you’re not practicing, rehearsing or performing?

A main hobby of mine would be collecting CDs and collecting music scores. I love how a music/soundtrack score ends up being oddly well organized. I have over 3,000 music CD collections from all various musical genres. Yet when I have some time off, a major love of mine is cooking traditional Chinese food.

How did you first pick up the violin?

My mother thought I was talented enough to play the violin. Thus, with her decision, when I was four violin lessons had become a part of my daily life. On top of that, my mother noticed that I developed quite an ear for music. Wherever I went, if there was music playing without a doubt I could pick up certain notes which heightened my desire to play.

What’s your favorite part about living and working in Cincinnati?

Cincinnati envelopes a certain warmth and general welcome home feeling that I haven't felt anywhere else. While currently living in this city, between my friends and colleagues I have never felt like an outsider, which is a little surprising. However being an individual who comes from a completely different background compared to most and feeling unabashedly welcomed is fantastic. My friends and generally everyone I know have been nothing but supportive in my endeavors. Cincinnati has cemented the award of becoming my second hometown, especially since my original home is half a world away.

What have been some of the most memorable performances or artistic collaborations in your time at the CSO?

The very first concert with the CSO that I played was during One City, One Symphony on November 14, 2014. The seating arrangement had me seated in the principal chair for over half the concert. We performed Mahler’s Symphony No.1. What was truly amazing was the sound from the CSO and how the audience’s passion infused with the artistic inspiration from Maestro Langrée came off as simply majestic.

If your colleagues in the orchestra had to describe you in 10 words or less, what would they say?

“Yang is very hard-working and serious about his position in the orchestra”
“Hard worker, nice guys, big asset to violin section”

The CSO’s mission is “To seek and share inspiration.” Where do you seek and find inspiration, musically or otherwise?

Definitely from music itself. Especially since I always end up going back and looking at the score to find inspiration. One reason being that the score as whole reveals a sort of story that is happening within the composer's mind. Being able to witness such a spectacle fuels a further passion for music. Now with technology turning into this ever growing function and at such a high speed, I can take the time to stay home exploring any and if not all musical recordings from the last century. By exploring eras of music, inspiration for me has without a doubt flourished and expanded into an ever growing fascination. Somehow my love for music has only grown.

Who has been your most important musical influence and why?

My teacher in China was Yaoji Lin and my teacher here in the United States was Kurt Sassmannshaus. Without their careful guidance I would not be at the point I am today. My teacher in China was relatively strict about sticking to the fundamental violin skills. As appreciative I am for this fundamental training, there was never enough space to experiment outside of that curriculum. However, my teacher here in the United States always issued more performance opportunities my direction to perform. My teacher offered more artistic advice that I had been lacking beforehand. To this day I still follow that advice.

What would be your profession if you weren’t a musician?

Probably a police officer, most likely because my father was a police officer for over 30 years. As a child I idolized my father for the work he contributed. However, I was just ruminating that if I had not started playing violin when I was four, I would more than likely be an on duty police officer right now, following in the footsteps of my father.