Old About Me
This used to be the old about me page on my website. While some of this info is outdated/different now, I still think it’s a pretty representative story about myself and wanted to keep it online, so now it’s part of my (rarely used) blog!
People always ask me why I chose to play the cello. To be honest, I don’t remember ever having chosen to play the cello; the cello was simply an unquestionable part of my reality from the time I was born (perhaps even earlier, given my constant exposure to my father’s cello playing while still a fetus). On the day I came home from the hospital, the first thing my father did was put me down in front of him and play an open C string. I imagine the deep bass sound might have frightened most three-day-olds, but apparently I was fascinated and very attentive.
I grew up in a house full of string instruments (my father is a luthier) and surrounded by musicians and music. I took my first steps next to a row of cellos, spent virtually every day in my father’s shop playing with pieces of wood, strings, and miscellaneous parts of instruments while watching him work, and heard a plethora of string music played by various incoming musicians day-to-day. When I had my first play date, I came home and announced that, while I had enjoyed my time, I hadn’t had the chance to see the shop in my friend’s house. String instruments were so prevalent in my environment that it wasn’t a surprise that I was begging for a cello of my own from the time I could talk. When I was two years old, my parents finally complied and I began my first cello lessons. My earliest human memory is of the day I first saw my tiny, 1/16th sized cello and met my cello teacher; in my mind, there has never really existed a time without the presence of the instrument in my life.
I was born in the United States to a highly artistic and multicultural family (three and a half languages were spoken in the house: English, Mandarin, Spanish, and Shanghainese). My grandmother was an artist and my father was a cellist who later became a violin maker; both were Cuban refugees who arrived in America with little more than the clothes on their backs. My mother, who arrived under similar conditions from China as a graduate student in psychology, is a lifelong music, art, and literature lover. As a result of being a homeschooled child in an unconventional household and my mother’s attitude that children should be treated as equals and left to explore life at their own will, I grew up with quite a lot of freedom in my (lack of) structure. There were periods of months during which I did little to no schoolwork (my mother never cared as long as I passed my end of year exams) and instead spent my time reading, writing, drawing, watching films, and occasionally rebelling. My fondest memories of the time, however, are of running around the woods behind my house and dreaming of adventures outside the small town where we lived.
One summer when I was 15, after several years of fantasizing about life in Europe (the danger of too many novels and art films), I woke up and announced to my parents that I was moving to Paris to study at the Conservatoire. I was promptly informed that I would first need to finish my last three years of high school, learn French, and pass the entrance exams, but that if I managed to do that, I could go. Six months later, I’d done all the above and, in another half a year, I was living alone in a country where I knew almost no one and, as I quickly realized, had no idea how to take care of myself.
During the two years I lived in Paris between age 16-18, I was officially meant to be getting an education in music, but what I truly got was an education in life. I spent most of my days in museums, galleries, and cafés, and my more colorful evenings in jazz clubs, wandering Le Marais (the neighborhood where I lived and whose culture I embraced), and encountering people of sorts I had never known before. My longtime bibliophilic habits inevitably led me to Shakespeare & Company, where I spent many an evening holed up in their library. I was routinely kicked out at closing time until I eventually realized that I could stay past shop hours if I joined the staff, so I worked there for half a year and collected wonderful memories along the way. I credit these two years for having opened my mind to more new ideas and experiences than likely any other period of my life, although I still keep an open attitude and spirit of curiosity when approaching everything and everyone I encounter today.
After graduating with my bachelor’s degree, I moved back to New York City where, having little idea what to do, I decided to do everything I could. I set up a photography studio in my apartment, befriended a bodybuilder who became my personal trainer, and adopted the health and fitness mania rampant in the success-crazy culture of the city. Most of my days were split between practicing cello for six hours, working out and doing yoga for three, calorie-counting the food I was meal-prepping, and spending whatever time was leftover on artistic exploration through various mediums. In retrospect, it was an incredibly productive and inspired year that instilled a lot of the discipline in me I lacked before, but it sadly was not everlastingly sustainable. A year later, I spontaneously decided to move back to Europe (I am fickle as well as compulsive) and within a few months I found myself in Berlin, where I live now! I still play the cello, still read, still am into health and fitness, and still hopefully am as curious and open-minded as I have always been before.