When Xufei Yang started the guitar, it was a known as a ‘hooligan instrument’ in China.
I met her in Hong Kong around this time, and her teacher was very excited about her prospects, so wanted to make a connection with the West. Gareth Walters of the BBC just happened to be in Hong Kong then, and she played Paganini’s 24th Caprice for him – he wasn’t able to do anything on the spot, but eventually, Fei came to the UK. This was just after John Williams and I played and taught in China in 1995. It has been a long road, but perseverance, hard work and talent has resulted in Fei becoming one of the most sought after guitarists today.
In many ways she has led the way for the next generation of Chinese guitarists, three of whom were finalists in the GFA 2013 competitions, with many more waiting in the wings.
She became the first Chinese guitarist to enter a music school and launch an international career, but it certainly hasn’t been plain sailing: her parents weren’t sure she’d make a living as an instrumentalist.
Xufei (or Fei, to her friends) has proven them wrong and has performed in 40 countries across the world.
What do her parents think now she’s an internationally successful performer? How does she deal with her busy touring schedule? And where does the guitar go when she’s travelling by plane?