Talking with Yumi Cho of San Diego Symphony Orchestra

A photo of San Diego Symphony Orchestra violinist Yumi Cho
With her violin securely in a backpack, San Diego Symphony Orchestra violinist Yumi Cho walks the streets of our fair city on Oct. 9, 2019 in San Diego, California.
(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

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Yumi Cho is a violinist with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, originally from Alberta, Canada. She studied at Barnard College, Columbia University and The Juilliard School, and has been with the San Diego Symphony for 14 seasons.

How many hours did you have to practice to make it to the professional level? As a high school and college student, I averaged four to five hours a week during the school year, and about three to four hours a day during the summer months.

What was your San Diego Symphony Orchestra audition experience like? It was complex and humbling. Practicing for and performing in an orchestra audition is extremely tough on all levels — physically, mentally, emotionally. I’d say it parallels the kind of dedication and focus that athletes endure prior to the Olympics.

What’s the most exciting part about being a member of the symphony? Creating music with my colleagues. The level of talent and commitment onstage is an inspiration and it motivates me to play at my very best. We are in a profession unlike most and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to make music for a living.

What is the most difficult part about playing in the symphony? In general, I’d say the teamwork aspect. Since we are unable to use the spoken word to communicate during performance, we must use our ears to listen and our breath to anticipate the next note or phrase. It’s a daily challenge, but when everything seems to fall into place, the outcome is just sublime.

What has it been like to work with new music director Rafael Payare? Motivating and exhilarating! He brings in a fresh perspective on music-making which I think our orchestra is thriving on these days. We are so lucky to have him.

What is the holiday season like for a classical musician? Busy! Not only do we have our regular symphony services, but many of us also teach and take on outside gigs during the holidays.

People associate this time of year with The Nutcracker, what’s your favorite piece from it? Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

What’s your favorite music to play in general? It’s difficult to choose, but I always love repertoire by any of the three B’s — Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.

What do you listen to in your free time? If I have time, I try to get out to the ocean as often as possible. I love listening to the sound of the waves.

If you didn’t play the violin, you’d … travel the world as a landscape/wildlife photographer. I love traveling, the great outdoors and seeking endemic wildlife in far off lands. My next bucket list destinations are Madagascar, Papua New Guinea and Greenland.

Where can people follow you? On Instagram, @unissah.