Yut Chia, a violinist who earns a living performing on subway platforms, has seen many of his dreams turn to reality over the last few weeks.
The 19-year-old is now a second violinist for the Manhattan Symphonie and has gained recognition from a few of his childhood idols.
Chia, born in Colombia, grew up in Bayside. He now lives in College Point, where he, his mother, Shydney Gracia, and little brother, Andres, have a one bedroom, second floor apartment.
“I always wanted to play [violin],” said Chia. “But my mom couldn’t afford lessons until I was in seventh grade.”
Since then, Chia, who is half Chinese, half Colombian, has made it his goal to earn a living through playing the violin.
Two years ago, he and friend Edward Li began performing on Manhattan subway platforms to earn money. Chia saw it as an opportunity to help support his single mother and to also raise money for his college education.
“We started playing music from Nuttin’ But Stringz,” said Chia. “Their music is what people like.” Nuttin’ But Stringz is a duo from Jamaica that mixes classical violin with hip-hop and R&B. He also named classical orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic and Berlin Philharmonic as influences.
“I listened to all the orchestras,” said Chia. “I’d go on You Tube and listen to all the famous violinists.”
Chia and his friends would play on the subway for seven to eight hours, until they earned about $100 each. “We needed money first,” Chia said. “I needed a new bow and a new violin.”
However, earlier this month, Chia’s life took a sudden turn when a surprise visit was paid during a performance with his quartet.
Damien Escobar from Nuttin’ But Stringz showed up to play side by side with Chia for about 15 minutes.
“It was awesome, he surprised me, I wasn’t expecting it at all,” said Chia. “He invited me to be in his music video.”
Escobar and Chia will be on set together July 26 at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, the scheduled date for the video shoot.
But Escobar is just one of four to reach out to the young violinist this month.
Attorney John Castro, from the Castro Law firm, gave a $1,000 donation to support Chia’s efforts. “He said we come from the same story,” said Chia. “They told him not to continue his pursuit of being a lawyer.”
The generous donation was quickly put into use, as Chia was finally able to purchase his new bow and violin this week, at a cost of $4,000.
Chia was also contacted by Andre Rieu, violinist and founder of the Johann Strauss Orchestra, and Gregory Singer, conductor of the Manhattan Symphonie. Rieu looks forward to meeting with the hard-working violinist, who owns a DVD of performances by Rieu himself.
“He contacted me, he wants to see me,” said Chia. “He travels all over the world.”
Chia’s first performance with the Manhattan Symphonie was on July 19 at The Players Club in Gramercy Park. Singer will now look to prepare Chia for his college auditions by giving him lessons at his shop in Manhattan.
In the meantime, Chia will continue to play in the subways in order to earn enough money to go to Queens College.
“After I reach college, hopefully I won’t be in subways. Hopefully, I’ll be in concert halls.”