Welcome, Guo Yang!

Guo Yang grew up in Handan, China, originally the capital city of Zhao, one of the seven kingdoms during the Warring States period of ancient China (“very old, like Game of Thrones old,” he suggests). From there, Yang began music school in Beijing at age 11, before completing a Bachelor’s degree at Shanghai Conservatory, a Master’s degree at Peabody Conservatory, and Artist Diploma at Indiana University. Yang has previously been a member of the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra (now, the San Antonino Philharmonic).

We welcomed Yang to our orchestra in September 2022 after his successful audition in June, and we’re please to have had the opportunity to sit down with him to hear his background!

When did you start playing and why did you pick your instrument?

I wanted to be in the children’s choir of my hometown when I was six. But when my mother took me there, we were told that all spots were taken. If I wanted to join I would have to wait for a year. A year? That was an eternity to my 6 year old self. On our way home that day, mother took me to a violin shop. You probably know the rest of the story.

Oh, and I switched to viola when I was 17 because I though it was a cooler instrument.

Is there any specific story to your current instrument?

My viola was made by Hungarian maker Otto Erdesz in 1950. It used to belong to former principal violist of the Lyric Opera Chicago, Rami Solomonow. Once, he left the Erdesz in the car for a moment and someone broke in and stole it. The instrument was missing for about 10 years until he saw it one day hanging on a wall in a violin shop. He took the viola back that day without being charged a dime, yet didn’t play on it again since he had already secured on an older Italian instrument that he had been playing for a long time.

What is your favorite piece of music currently? Why?

While I am answering these questions, I am listening to Kurt Weill’s album Life, Love, and Laughter on Apple Music. I guess I am an old soul?

Do you have a favorite memory of something that happened on stage?

Hmm, ok, this is not my favorite, per se, but definitely a memorable experience. My first year in middle school, I played the first Bach Sonata for Solo Violin in a school recital that all the faculty members and students attended. Toward the end of the Fuga, I played one wrong chord that consequently took me back to the beginning of the movement. As stubborn as I was, I played through most of the movement again in front of 100 people. Except this time, all I could think about was finding the right “exit” this time to get out of this embarrassment. Three measures, two measures, one measure…I made the same mistake again…Thankfully, my teacher stood up and ended my misery: “Very good! Let’s save the rest of the piece for next time.” I took a bow in the ocean of laughter.

Never performed that piece again.

What’s something that people might not know about you?

Besides being a dog dad and tropical fish keeper, I am also a foodie and cook. My nick name in college was “dumpling” because my favorite Shanghainese food was soup dumpling. I mostly make Sichuan food though, with the perfect balance between green peppercorn and chilly pepper, everything is hot ‘n tasty!