Bayside violinist gets break after subway showcase

Yut Chia (l.) tunes up in the violin shop operated by his mentor Gregory Singer, who conducts the Manhattan Symphonie. Photo by Emily Salmon
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It has been an exciting summer for 19-year-old violinist Yut Chia. The Bayside High School grad recently performed in a music video with violin-playing Nuttin’ But Stringz rapper Damien Escobar at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center. They played Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain” and N.B.S.’s hip-hop song “Thunder.”

Chia said he had performed “Thunder” in the seventh grade, never imagining that one day he would be jamming with his favorite musician.

The rapper recently surprised Chia, who was performing with his quartet in the subway, at Times Square and 42nd Street.

“I believe in what he’s doing. He reminds me of myself 10 years ago and I want to help him any way I can,” said Escobar, 25, who had also attended Bayside High.

In a strange twist of fate, Manhattan Symphonie conductor Gregory Singer also happened to come by that subway stop in July. He told Chia he needed a backup band right away, and the teen said OK on the condition, Singer said, that “he could play for me, and I’d give him some advice and a violin lesson. So, we struck a deal.” Singer also needed a few string players for his upcoming concert on July 19 and Chia, who loves Mozart “because of his happiness,” proudly played second violin.

Taking his new protégé under his wing, Chia’s teacher and mentor has been prepping him for auditions with Julliard, Manhattan School of Music and Queens College.

“He (Singer) helped me flourish and made my violin sing more,” said Chia, who grew up in Bayside but now lives in College Point. “Once I get that finesse, he said he can make me great.”

Singer said he “could see (Chia’s) enthusiasm, and it made me feel good to have an eager disciple.” He told the teen that playing hard in the noisy subway was not helping his subtle style. But the lad said he needed money to help take care of his mom and little brother. “He understands the value of a dollar. He’s paying his family’s bills by working hard,” said the conductor, who wears his late father’s concert tails when he performs.

“Yut is a talented, ambitious violinist — just a bit rough around the edges. He told me about his life – being born in Colombia and immigrating here (at age 3).” His father, of Chinese heritage, had disappeared when he was a baby.

“They came to America in pursuit of liberty and happiness, and Yut is already enriching our lives here in New York,” said Singer.

Manhattan Symphonie’s next concert is on 9/11 at The Players, 16 Gramercy Park South in Manhattan, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25. Call for the box office 212-475-6116 or log on to

In February, they are set to play Carnegie Hall. Chia said he hopes to play solo there.

Watch Nuttin’ But String’s “Thunder” on YouTube at

Posted 1:51 am, August 2, 2012
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Reader feedback

Leslie Wright from Upper westside Manhattan says:
I thank the Queens Ledger for their human article.
The funds for music programs in our public schools have been cut, and Tammy Scileppi's story reminds everyone that a young person can find a better future through music as Yut Chia is making friends and connections while making progress communicating with his favorite instrument - the violin.
I applaude the Times Ledger and Tammy Scileppi for discovering this emerging story about Yut Chia and his new mentor Gregory Singer who conducts the Manhattan Symphonie. Yut is from Columbia and Gregory's father is from Poland. Queens is a wonderful melting pot and it's nice Tammy and Yut and Gregory are all part of the helping hand tradition. America is a wonderful country and we should never forget that.
Aug. 3, 2012, 12:44 pm

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