Violist Qi Yue is graduating this summer from the Central Music Conservatory with a Master of Fine Arts degree in viola performance and, like the rest of his class, he will hold a graduation recital. But unlike his fellow students, Qi has scheduled an official press conference to promote his performance. One might scoff at his audacity, call it unchecked narcissism, or perhaps laud him for his ambition. This does not faze Qi. Even before he graduates, Qi has been offered a full-time professorship at Renmin University. He has also organized a large professional ensemble to serve as a vehicle for his renown as the first solo violist in China. That's Beijing sits down with Qi Yue: student, professor, vanguard violist and business man.
tbj: Could you talk about your concert this month?
Qi Yue: It has a special theme, even though it's a graduation recital, because last year at almost the same time, March 30, my father passed away. I want to give him a special gift. This is a dedication to him.
tbj: What plans do you have after graduation?
QY: My goal is to be the first solo violist in China. Not just a viola teacher – because I will teach at Renmin University starting this fall – but China needs a viola star. What I will do is not just classical music, and not popular music, but crossover, in the middle. We are organizing a band that will play this music – like Yo Yo Ma, but this is all arranged from old movie melodies. We have a bayan (a Russian accordion), bass, yangqin, piano and strings. Our name is 80 Xin Yutetuan ('80s New Music Ensemble).
tbj: What is it about the generation born in the '80s that's so special?
QY: After the '80s, China gradually opened to the world, and we were born in this time. As children, China changed so quickly. Now, we are getting to be the major generation in China. The '80s generation is still shaping itself. The oldest are, like me, 26 years old. In five or ten years, we will be the shehui shangdi ("gods of society").
tbj: Could you talk more about your business?
QY: In 2004, I started a company E-Chengwen International Culture Promotion. We organized a European orchestra tour, and helped with a lot of concert management and recording for undiscovered talent not really known to Chinese audiences. We helped them to show their talent in their recordings, and we did some promotion. That's what I'm doing for myself now.
tbj: Some people say that an artist shouldn't get their hands dirty with business matters.
QY: I don't think so. It depends how you think. Business is business. Art is art. When I do music, I can close that window, close that door. And I can switch easily. Actually, business helps me to play more freely with a deeper understanding of music, because I have experienced real life. When I was 16, I sat my father down for a serious talk: I wanted to change my career, I didn't want to play any more. When he was very young, he played the violin and erhu, but he was never able to fulfill his dream of playing, as he grew up during the "cultural revolution." So in the end, he persuaded me to continue. When I entered the Central Conservatory at 18 years old, living alone, I saw different people, different worlds. There were so many opportunities, and I knew I was lucky. In the end, it made me special.
Qi Yue can be heard at the Central Conservatory of Music recital hall on April 8, at 3pm, accompanied by pianist Michelle Yip and the 80s New Music Ensemble. He also hosts a salon at Mag Cafe. Call 8265 0713 for details.
(That's Beijing April 5, 2006)