After three years at the Aaron Copland School of music, the soprano became just one of eight singers accepted to the Yale School of Music’s opera department.
After receiving a call with the news of her acceptance from the artistic director at Yale’s program, Yu recalled that she said, “‘You’re kidding, right?’ The director answered, ‘I’m not kidding, dear.’”
What’s more, the China-native will also have some of the best assistance in paying for the expensive school after taking home the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation 2014 Graduate Arts Award, the leading graduate scholarship in the country for visual arts, performing arts and writing for students in financial need.
Thanks to her scholarship, Yu will receive nearly $50,000 per year for up to three years at Yale in order to cover both her tuition and living expenses.
“When I’m 70, I’ll look back and be amazed at this opportunity,” Yu said. “I’m going to take it from here and run with it.”
Singing wasn’t Yu’s first passion, however. When she first came to the states to further her education, she began as a dancer, completing a two-year certificate program in musical theater dance at the American Musical Dramatic Academy in just 18 months.
She then traveled with numerous regional companies for nearly a year after receiving the certificate and later enrolled at Mercy College as a communications disorders major to keep her student visa.
It was following an injury while playing volleyball with the Lady Knights, however, that changed her trajectory back towards music and performance.
When she was benched in in her first semester at Queens College, she took up classical music as a raw beginner. After two auditions at the Aaron Copland School of Music, she was later accepted as a vocal major.
“Queens College is the kind of place where if you don’t come in with all the tools, professors see your potential and give you a chance,” Yu explained, adding that she originally “hated” classical music, which she found “pretentious.” That opinion changed after her first musical class at QC. “I fell in love,” she said.