[subscribe2]Queens high school violinist seeks to play his way from an F-train platform to a concert stage
Yut Chia, 19, plays impromptu gigs in the subways, making money to fund his dream of becoming a concert violinist
By Joe Stepansky / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Friday, June 22, 2012, 4:00 AM
Bryan Smith for New York Daily News
Yut Chia, a Queens high schooler and violinist, plays in the 6th Avenue F train subway station to raise money for a new violin.
At a time when high school students are struggling to find part-time gigs in the tough economy, a 19-year-old Queens violinist is tapping into his pursuit of virtuosity to create a college fund.
Yut Chia, who is graduating from Bayside High School this month, has been filling subway platforms with his bitter-sweet classical renditions since he was a junior and hopes to raise funds to keep up his musical pursuit.
The College Point resident has concert hall potential, said his longtime instructor Richard Green, 60, but also a lot to overcome.
“He comes from very humble beginnings. That’s a struggle,” said Green. “But he’s able to tackle difficult music with a little help from me but pretty much on his own. He shows a lot of initiative.”
Chia, who is of Chinese and Colombian descent, moved to New York from Colombia with his family when he was 3. Despite a lifelong interest in the violin, he did not have money for lessons until he was 12, a major setback in a world full of grade-school music tutors.
Regardless, he hopes to attend Juilliard or the Manhattan School of Music, and he’s taking a year to prep and save.
“I have to play catch up, but I’m close,” said Chia, as he unpacked his violin for a noonday performance with a quartet on a recent Friday on the downtown F-train platform at 14th St. and 6th Ave.
He started with some radio favorites — Coldplay and La Cucaracha — before kicking into Pachelbel’s Canon and throwing metal dance bravado into a rendition of Nuttin’ But Strings’ “Thunder.”
After a few songs, the cello case turned tip jar was lined with dollar bills.
Regular listener Sean Devney, 54, a messenger from Jackson Heights, stopped and dropped a dollar in the case.
“These guys are young but they know what they’re doing,” he said.
With the money he makes in these impromptu subway concerts — $12 to $20 an hour — Chia helps support his single mother and younger brother .
He’s drawn enough notice to be able to book gigs, meet mentors and cultivate a stable of paying students. He can be reached at facebook.com/asianviolinist.
With a recently purchased violin in tow, Chia is now looking to buy a quality bow, which costs about $1,000, before his college auditions.
To be come a professional musician, you must be the top half of the top one percent, Green noted.
For now, Chia is content with straphangers’ smiles, he said, but the long odds haven’t stopped from him moving toward his dream gig — a chair in the Andre Rieu orchestra— one subway sonata at a time.
“(Rieu’s) about bringing people happiness and making them interact,” said Chia. “That’s what I try to do when I play. It’s all I’m in to.”