For San Diego native Tina Guo, music’s an adventure


Have you heard Tina Guo play her cello?

You have, if you saw “Wonder Woman,” “Dunkirk” or “Iron Man 2.” You have, if you heard her collaborations with rapper Big K.R.I.T., former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr or Grammy-winning New Age music veteran Peter Kater. And you have, if you ever played such video games as “Journey” and “Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate.”

Have you seen Tina Guo play her cello?

You have, if you watched “Joe Bonamassa: Live at Carnegie Hall,” the PBS special starring the blues-rock guitar virtuoso. You have, if you attended Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour,” which included a show at Valley View Casino Center here in 2010. And you have, if you saw this former San Diego Symphony guest soloist perform at the 2017 Coachella Valley Arts & Music Festival with superstar film composer Hans Zimmer, whose world tour with Guo also included a concert here at Viejas Arena.

You may have also seen the YouTube video of Guo performing the cello-dominant theme of “Wonder Woman,” which now has more than 5 million views.

Classical or rock, electric or acoustic, on stage or online, Guo seemingly does it all.

“It’s reflective of myself as person,” explained Guo, 32, who will perform with the San Diego Civic Youth Orchestra Sunday at California Center for the Arts. “I get bored by repetitive behavior. It keeps things interesting to explore different ways of thinking and that translates to how I think about music. It has been a fun adventure.”

Guo was born in Shanghai but has lived in the U.S. since age 5. She went to middle and high school in Poway, where her parents still live, and played with the Escondido-based SDCYO for a couple of years. Her Sunday appearance with SDCYO is a repeat performance: She was a soloist with the orchestra when she was 11 years old.

“I still remember clearly the fear that I felt being in front of the orchestra and audience,” Guo recalled. “It’s awesome to be asked back and come home to play.

“I’m really excited. The performing arts center hall is beautiful. It’s awesome to play both classical and my other stuff with the CYO.”

The upcoming concert will be different for SDCYO and its music director, Robert Gilson. In addition to Guo’s encore of the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No. 1, she and her band will play songs from her 2017 album, “Game On,” a collection of video-game music. Guo, her band and the youth orchestra will conclude the concert performing part of “The Legend of Zelda.”

“I talked to Mr. Gilson, who has never played with a click track,” said Guo, who uses prerecorded music extensively. “It’s great for the younger musicians to explore that. You have to be a lot more exact. Today, a lot of people use backing tracks.”

Guo features the “Zelda” piece on “Game On” and in her popular video, in which she wears princess and elf costumes. Her many videos showcase Guo’s creativity beyond her acoustic and electric cello skills.

“For most part, I’ve done the styling, production and editing,” she said. “Video is a perfect way to demonstrate where the instrumentation comes from or how a musician visualizes it.

“And it’s a good excuse to dress up and wear elf ears! That’s the most fun part — to create the concept of a video. It’s like a kid playing Barbie, thinking of different scenes.”

After the Escondido concert, Guo’s schedule is packed. It includes two concerts in L.A. and summer performances in Krakow, London and Singapore. She’ll contribute to upcoming film soundtracks (all secret now). She will also be working on an album of original compositions. Throughout 2018, she will perform pieces she composed for a Bentley Motors campaign introducing its new luxury hybrid vehicle.

How will she handle such a full calendar?

Guo laughed.

“I’ll try not to have a panic attack,” she said.

Tina Guo with San Diego Civic Youth Orchestra

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: California Center for the Arts, 340 N. Escondido Blvd., Escondido

Tickets: $35-$45, student discount available; $65, VIP passes

Phone: (800) 988-4253


Wood is a freelance writer.