Cellist Ouyang Nana responds to critics of her decision to leave the Curtis Institute of Music

By Xiong Yuqing Source:Global Times Published: 2016-2-15 18:18:01

Cellist Ouyang Nana Photo: Courtesy of Universal Music

Many teenagers need to make decisions such as choosing a college or deciding to live on or off campus. Decisions like these can make for major turning points in their lives, but very few teens have their choices exposed to public criticism. 

However this is exactly what happened to 15-year-old Ouyang Nana.

 She is the envy of people her age: daughter of a famous Taiwanese acting couple, she comes from a wealthy family; studying cello since she was 6, she held her first solo concert at age 12 and was accepted into one of the world's top music academies, the Curtis Institute of Music, at 13; she has also appeared in films such as Beijing Love Stories and on numerous variety shows such as Up Idols.

However, when she announced her decision to leave the Curtis Institute of Music in the summer of 2015, the young cellist found herself in the middle of controversy. She was attacked online by swarms of netizens criticizing her for what they see as wasting an opportunity many music students dream of and her mother even had to post e-mails from the institute to dispel rumors that Ouyang had been expelled from the institute because she had been attending too many show-business related events.

Exploring a new path

When talking about the two years she spent at Curtis, Ouyang told the Global Times: "It was the first time I studied abroad. When I lived there it was very real and nothing like a dream. Everyone was so in love with music, they didn't just teach me music but how to live life."

Ouyang explained that she was still pursuing her education through an online school.

"People think I've stopped studying, but that's not the case. I'm still taking classes and earning credits online," she said, going on to explain that she was still trying to find a lifestyle that fit her.

"I can study whenever and wherever I want, at any time."

Ouyang stressed that she was not leaving music behind. Actually, in her opinion, 2015 could be seen as the true start of her music career. In addition to solo concerts at the National Centre of Performing Arts in Beijing, she signed with the Universal Music Group's Mercury Classics label and released her first album 15 in December - a rare accomplishment for a cellist her age.

Like many girls her age who like to keep a diary, Ouyang kept a record of her three-day experience recording her music in a studio, as well as making notes on her understanding of the short pieces, something that classic musicians rarely do.

"Of course I felt great pressure releasing a CD record at this age. Other musicians might release a CD after they are more mature or proved themselves worthy as professional musicians. People might find some weakness in this CD, I know I do," she said, explaining that it was her teacher who encouraged her to record her music at this age.

"He told me that it might not be good enough, but when I grow up and listen to it again, I might find some surprises."

Currently Ouyang is studying under Ouyang Ling-yi and Zhu Yibing, the latter a famous cellist from the Chinese mainland, so Beijing has become a frequent destination.

She described Zhu as an excellent teacher who encourages her to express her own ideas and feelings.

"He told me: 'You thought it was you who chose music, but actually it was music that chose you.' That was very encouraging for me and gave me motivation to play cello."

The young cellist has plenty of plans when it comes to music. "I'm not satisfied with the amount of music I can play. I need to learn a lot more pieces and continue to refine my skills. My pace is a little slow, so I'm taking things step by step and practicing more."

Branching careers

Most criticism about her decision took the stance that a classical musician has no place in show business. This is a stance that Ouyang just cannot agree on.

"I was born into a show-biz family. I'm not afraid to face cameras or tell the media what I think. I've already adapted to this kind of life," she said.

"Many people see show-biz as something vulgar and bad, but I've never thought of it that way because I believe that actors are artists in another field that is also very professional," Ouyang said.

She explained that for her music and acting has had an impact on each other.

"For example, when I need to cry, I can't really think of anything that makes me tear up because I have a really happy life, but I can recall a piece of sad music. And when I'm playing music about lost love, although I've never been in a relationship I can put that feeling into my music because I've acted like I was in love in a movie before."

"I started playing this musical instrument for fun, but gradually I enjoyed it so much that I thought that playing the cello was something that I wanted to do in the future. I love playing the cello so I wanted to be a cellist, it was a very straightforward thought," she said, explaining that she discovered acting is also fun, so she is now considering moving in this direction in the future.

"I enjoy it. It's a very simple thing. I am very lucky to have found so many things I love to do."

When asked if she minds being recognized for her movie work instead of her music, Ouyang replied: "I don't think I've become famous from Beijing Love Story. I also like being an actress, so it doesn't bother me at all being a cellist and an actress at the same time." 

Newspaper headline: Mid-teen crisis

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