JIN-XIANG "JX" YU ’14 is already a soprano of note. After only three years of classical training at the Aaron Copland School of Music, she gained admission to the Yale School of Music’s opera department, a program so exclusive that it accepted just six singers this year, giving all of them full scholarships. She also won a 2014 Graduate Arts Award from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation; recipients are eligible for as much as $50,000 a year for up to three years, to cover tuition or living expenses.
“When I’m 70, I will look back and still be amazed at this opportunity,” says Yu, overwhelmed. “I’m going to take it from here and run with it.”
Born in China and raised in Japan, the future diva grew up in a musical household; her father plays the erhu, the two-stringed Chinese violin, and her mother plays piano and the Chinese dulcimer. Nonetheless, when Yu came to New York in 2007, she thought of herself as a dancer. She completed a two-year certificate program at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in 18 months and then hit the road with regional companies.
A year later, to keep her student visa, Yu enrolled at Mercy College as a communications disorders major. She was then recruited to play volleyball for the QC Lady Knights. Benched by injury in her first year here, she took up classical music as a raw beginner; indeed, she had to audition at Aaron Copland twice before being accepted as a vocal performance major. “Queens College is the kind of place where even if you don’t come in with all the tools, professors are able to see your potential and give you a chance,” she observes.
Yu also completed a major in linguistics. She’s fluent in Mandarin and Japanese, studied Spanish at the international schools she attended at home, and at QC immersed herself in other European languages. Her senior recital featured selections in Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, and Russian. But when the artistic director of Yale’s program called Yu to notify her of her acceptance, she found herself at a loss for words. “I had slept in that morning, so I was pretty sure I was dreaming,” she recalls. “I said, ‘You’re kidding, right?’ The director answered, ‘I’m not kidding, dear.’”
That’s success, in any language.
Favorite book: Le petit prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Favorite music: Smile by Chaplin
Surprising fact: Rides a unicycle