It’s been a remarkable journey for local musician Qian Yin, an accomplished violinist who now shares her exquisite skills locally with audiences and students at Red Deer College.
Hailing originally from China, Yin, 33, was already starting to develop her musical gifts by the time she was just three.
“My hometown is Wuhan which is a city in the middle part of China with about 10 million people,” she explained. “In China, that’s pretty ordinary,” she added with a laugh referring to the staggering population.
“My mother played the violin when she was young, and that’s part of the reason that I learned the violin. And also, when I was three-years-old, my grandmother bought me a keyboard.
“My parents have helped me a lot – not just financially. They’ve really supported me,” said a clearly grateful Yin.
“Every time I gave a recital, they were always so proud of me.”
As to her chosen instrument, she knew early on it was the one she wanted most to focus on.
“For me, the violin sound is really special,” she explained of why she has always found the instrument so compelling. Its versatility is amazing, although she did say the instrument is certainly not easy to master.
She later studied violin performance at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music for four years, later completing her masters in violin performance in London at the Royal Academy of Music where she studied for another four years.
“I still remember how that was a big decision for us,” she recalled of leaving her native country for faraway Britain. It was tough to leave home, and particularly to say good-bye to her parents. But the chance to study abroad presented an amazing opportunity.
The fabulous stint in London wasn’t the end of her travels, however. She received her doctorate degree in violin performance at the University of Illinois.
That’s where she also met her husband Cristian Neacsu, who is now a violin professor at Burman University in Lacombe.
He also serves as the vice-president of the Alberta String Association. It was also in Illinois that she met her pianist Po-Chuan Chiang, who continues to work there.
She credits both men, as well as her teachers and mentors over the years, with helping her to not only hone her skills but to also stay true to who she is as an interpreter of music, too.
Just recently, Yin, who also performs occasionally with the Calgary Philharmonic, and Chiang performed a program of delightful art music spanning the Classical, Romantic, and 20th century periods in Red Deer.
It’s a powerful partnership that continues to grow and evolve regardless of the distance, and the two certainly have a strong mutual respect for each other’s musical excellence.
Yin said her partner’s focus and dedication to bringing a performance to a high standard is a constant.
“It’s also not like he is my accompanist or I’m the leading one – I never feel like that. We are very equal.
“We discuss together, study together and learn from each other.”
Chiang, who is originally from Taiwan, said that working with Yin is a delight. “Sometimes, when we are on stage, we will perform differently than we did in the rehearsal – that’s the fun part.”
Her maturity and spontaneity are both engaging attributes, as is her typically ‘calm’ approach to performance, he said. They’ve also been working on a CD which they plan to release later this year.
Chiang also had an early start in music, beginning his studies on the piano at age five. In adulthood, he first studied in Taiwan and eventually headed to the Boston Conservatory to obtain his master’s degree.
“He is a wonderful pianist – I’m lucky to have him,” added Yin.
These days, she teaches violin at Red Deer College and she teaches privately as well. Playing for folks at local nursing homes and the hospital is something she and her students have done, and want to do all the more.
“We want to do more things for the community.”
And clearly, Red Deer is a whole lot quieter than her bustling hometown, Shanghai, or London. But Yin is fine with a slower pace. “For me there is a simplicity here which in a bigger city is hard to find.
“People are so nice – I feel they have really warm hearts. They really respect you.”
Through it all, it’s the love of music that keeps her so inspired no matter where she finds herself, and it’s always been that way.
“Music has become such a central part of my life. I really like to find my own voice, and try to make it more sincere and true to myself. That’s the most important thing to me.”