Interview: Xuefei Yang

Alex Paszkowicz

World-renowned guitarist Xuefei Yang will join the University of Nottingham Philharmonia for the concert on the 24th of February. Xuefei will be playing the solo part in Dr Chen Yi’s premiere of her concerto, Dreaming of My Hometown. Impact’s Alex Paszkowicz interviewed Xuefei to learn more about her passion for the guitar and her experiences as a professional guitarist as we approach the Spring concert.

I began the interview by asking Xuefei about what inspired her to pick the guitar. Despite wanting her to learn the accordion – a popular instrument at the time – to help her concentrate, her primary school teacher advised her parents to take the young Xuefei to the school’s guitar group. The prolific guitarist has been playing since she was seven.

‘I remember my dad bringing home a guitar and opening the box. It was the first time I had seen one. I fell in love with the sound as soon as I strummed my fingers across the strings.’

Without the internet or videos, there were scarce educational resources

Xuefei spent her early years learning the guitar just after the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and the instrument was a ‘very niche and unknown instrument’. Without the internet or videos, there were scarce educational resources and ‘no faculty for the guitar at conservatory or university in China’.

Identified as having a natural talent for the guitar, she was the first guitarist to enter the middle school attached to the prestigious Central Conservatoire in China. Xuefei said, ‘I was actually the very first guitarist in China to graduate with a BA degree in music’. She moved to the UK and became the first Chinese musician to receive a full scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London for post-graduate study.

Internationally debuting in Madrid at 14, I asked Xuefei about how she finds the collaborative nature of ensemble performance. She describes her performances as a team effort and enjoys sharing ideas with other players. The guitarist explains that ensembles allow the music to ‘become richer, for example, there are more layers and colours, and dynamics are greater than on a solo instrument’.

I regard the guitar like my voice and want to make it sing

Continuing on the topic of performance, I asked Xuefei if there are particular styles she enjoys performing most. She told me, ‘I enjoy playing a wide range of musical styles, but I think I particularly enjoy lyrical music… I regard the guitar like my voice and want to make it sing’.

Turning her attention to the upcoming concert with our University’s Philharmonia, Xuefei looks forward to the premiere of Dr Chen’s concerto for Guitar and Orchestra, Dreaming of My Hometown. Honoured to be chosen as the soloist, she believes the piece connects Eastern and Western cultures through the flexible orchestration with Western and Eastern instruments and through the ‘musical idioms used in the piece’.

To watch Xuefei in concert at Nottingham’s Albert Hall, tickets are available on the Lakeside Arts website: https://www.lakesidearts.org.uk/music/event/5926/xuefei-yang-university-philharmonia.html

Alex Paszkowicz

Featured image courtesy of Robert Rowe. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes made to this image.

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