27 October 2016
Nana Ou-Yang, 15, has been playing the cello since she was 6. Photo: HKEJ
Nana Ou-Yang, 15, has been playing the cello since she was 6. Photo: HKEJ

Young cellist makes an unexpected decision

When you look at Nana Ou-Yang’s hands, don’t be surprised at the rough calluses on the 15-year-old’s fingertips.

They are evidence of the hard work that has gone into the young Taiwanese cellist’s achievements.

Nana was the youngest cellist ever to make a solo recital debut in the National Concert Hall of Taiwan and one of the youngest students ever accepted into the renowned Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

She started off learning the piano at the age of five, but it didn’t take her long to discover her true love.

While attending a concert the following year, she found herself engulfed in the sound of the cello.

Since then, she has practiced playing the instrument six hours a day, giving up childhood activities like hanging out with her family and classmates.

“It was my choice to do what I like,” Nana said.

“I wouldn’t complain about not being able to play with them.” 

Nana has owned five cellos, four of which she still keeps in good condition at home.

“I am attached most to my first cello, which held my tears so dearly,” the teenager said.

“After all, I was a child back then. Whenever I was frustrated or overwhelmed by too much pressure, I would cry out loud.

“I felt much better after releasing my emotions.”

Nana said she has inherited the optimism of her open-minded parents, who have always encouraged her to take a challenge.

She is glad they have given her their full support and complete freedom in pursuit of music.

“It was purely my personal choice to pursue classical music,” Nana said.

“My father and mother have not learned it, and so they couldn’t help me by checking whether the notes I played were correct.”

Nana was born into a celebrity family, growing up in the spotlight of the media.

Both of her parents are well-known TV personalities, and an aunt is a singer.

Some posters on the internet said that if she had not been born into a middle-class family, Nana wouldn’t have enjoyed the conditions necessary to pursue a musical career.

She thinks otherwise and believes it is a matter of fate.

Even if parents could help, she said, one shouldn’t be forced to do something he or she doesn’t like.

A decision Nana made this year could mark the biggest turning point in her life.

She is suspending her studies at the Curtis Institute, the alma mater of pianists Lang Lang and Wang Yuja.

Nana is standing by her decision despite intense criticism from netizens, emphasizing that it was her choice.

Signing up with the Universal Music record label, she will launch her first album, called “15″, next week.

She said the first day of recording was “painful”.

“I couldn’t make Popper’s Concert Polonaise, Op. 14, perfect even though we worked on it for more than four hours,” Nana recalls.

“I was caught in some difficulties that I have never encountered.

“I don’t think I am a perfectionist; however, I do have high hopes for myself, and I must do it right.”

Speaking of her future plans, Nana said she would like to make some breakthroughs in her music as well as her image.

“I want to keep my hair short,” she said.

“People often perceive classical music as something elegant, and I used to wear a dress in my performances.

“I hope to wear suits instead. I must look cool!”

The young musician said she hopes people do not find classical music irrelevant to their lives. 

It’s perfectly fine to simply enjoy the music, she said.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 8.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]


Nana and her parents celebrate her younger sister’s birthday (left). Nana poses with her cello and German music producer Johannes Müller (right). Photos: HKEJ

Nana (second from left) and her sisters pose with Hong Kong movie stars Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Carina Lau Kar-ling, Leung’s wife. Photo: HKEJ

Nana has signed up with the Universal Music record label and will launch her first album, called "15", next week. Photo: HKEJ

Hong Kong Economic Journal writer

EJI Weekly Newsletter