The Joyous String Ensemble is a group of children who play classical instruments.
If this conjures moments as a parent trying to tune out practice sessions of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or “Old MacDonald,” let’s settle that score right now. Justin Yu played Carnegie Hall at age 6.
He is the leader of a string ensemble – actually several, with varying numbers of players who range in age from 8 to 14. They’ve played on network TV shows, NBA games, venues large and small, even at the White House alongside big-name artists such as Crosby, Stills and Nash, Tori Kelly, and Fall Out Boy.
As the Joyous String Ensemble, Yu and six classmates from the Joyous Music School in New York will play at the second WGCU Twisted Strings Music Festival.
The Joyous performers are equally proficient playing tunes like Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” as well as Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.” Justin especially enjoys playing – and singing – to songs by Michael Jackson. “He’s got swag,” the young cellist said.
Justin, the son of Chinese composer and conductor Ziliang (Julian) Yu and Korean pianist Rho Aera, was 3 years old at his first dance class, said his father. “He was so young, he could not pick up the cello yet. But the dance background would help him move his body, move his hands, when playing an instrument.”
There are about 500 other students at Joyous school, including Justin’s sister Christine, but they don’t spend their lives practicing. They attend primary schools during the day and practice their lessons after school or on weekends, but at most one to two hours a day.
Julian Yu explained, “We focus on everyone’s ability to learn quickly and by themselves. … I grew up practicing a lot, so I try to have them do the opposite, which is practice less and better.”
This is likely to keep the kids more enthusiastic about any endeavor they find themselves working on.
In fact, Justin Yu knows he wants to be “a cellist and an entertainer” when he grows up.
Christine, though, has other aspirations. “I want to be a lawyer and change the world,” she said.