Queens violinist makes the journey from subway platforms to Lincoln Center

Yut Chia rehearses with his violin before performing. Photo courtesy Emily Salmon
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When Frank Sinatra sang that iconic song, “New York, New York,” making it in this city was just as tough as it is today, especially for musicians and artists.

But corny as it sounds, if you’re good — really good at what you do — you have a great shot at success. As the song says, ‘It’s up to you….’

Well, in Yut Chia’s case, it’s also about how beautifully he plays his violin.

Now 20, the talented musician from the College Point neighborhood of Queens seems to personify the meaning behind that profound message. Chia, who is of Chinese descent, came to New York City from Colombia with his family, when he was 3. His journey began like so many immigrants’ stories.

“Last year, I would’ve never imagined myself playing other than in the streets and subways of New York City,” he said. “But come Sept. 10, I’ll be performing at Lincoln Center in Avery Fisher Hall, with the World Peace Orchestra – a brand new orchestra in which talented youth get together in America, from all over the world – to play music. Very few people ever get the chance to say they’ve performed at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, but I will have that pleasure.”

Last year, the young violinist, who grew up in Bayside and graduated Bayside HS, was performing for subway audiences to pay for college and help out his single mom and younger brother. But in a twist of fate, Manhattan Symphonie conductor Gregory Singer took him under his wing and became his mentor and friend, prepping him for college auditions.

Before he knew it, the teen was playing second violin with the orchestra and setting his sights on the future.

“Yut continues to make tremendous progress and has an extremely positive and eager outlook on life. He is always smiling and always calls to tell me the latest good news in his life,” said Singer. “He is now graduated from studying with me and is studying with our co-concert master of the Manhattan Symphonie.”

Chia spoke highly of Singer, saying, “He’s been a real guide to me. He’s watched my progress from a street musician to being a real musician.

“He hooked me up with a violin teacher, Anya Heifetz, and she’s been the one giving me lessons and helping me improve my technique, alongside Gregory,” said Chia, who believes without their help, he wouldn’t be playing at the level that he currently is.

The busy violinist recently performed at the Dawn and Dusk musical festival, held at Kaufman Music Center in Manhattan – a collaboration of world-class artists from the Manhattan Symphonie and piano students from the Central Music School of China.

His family and friends attended the performance.

“They were all so proud of me – happy and inspired by the concert and how I made it there,” he said.

The college-bound violinist will be part of the music program at Queens College, this fall. Chia said that Aaron Copland School of Music Professor, Daniel Phillips, heard him play back in February. “He says I have so much talent….. However, he wanted me to focus on my violin technique more, which is the only thing I was missing. So, starting my second year, I should be set to study violin with this world-class violinist.”

Chia said his mother is very proud to have a son who is working hard to achieve his goal.

“I come from a very humble family, and it took me a whole year to earn for my first semester,” he said.

Chia said he has made quite a bit of college money from gigs and subway performances. But he doesn’t know yet how he’s going to pay for his second semester of college, and is hoping he’ll be granted a full scholarship.

As much as he loves music, the young musician said he must have a backup. “So, I chose pre-med. You know, I’m a very hard worker and I’ve been through so much, that I want to be successful in life, he said.

In his spare time, Chia plays with a modern string quartet band from the subway.

The violinist said he has met a lot of people and learned a lot, so far.

“It’s been fun, and hopefully in the future, this can be my life: Play music eight hours a day and make money off of my passion,” Chia said.

“Basically, I’m really hoping I become successful as a violinist – a world-class violinist. I’m striving to bring my emotions, passion and my talent to people with my violin.”

For more information on Chia and his music, check out:; and

Posted 1:53 am, August 23, 2013
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