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Yeji Cha-Beach Interview




1. What is your name and your profession(s)?

My name is Yeji (like “Edgy”) Cha-Beach. I’m the Music Associate Producer at Late Night with Seth Meyers, and Founder & Artistic Director of Did You Hear, an intimate live music house concert series featuring emerging and established artists and bands from a variety of backgrounds and genres.


2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship?

Korean born in Seoul. Moved to Ohio at 10 months old, but wasn’t naturalized until almost 11 years ago!


3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry?

Nope! My mom was an artist (mixed medium but primarily oil and water color) and dad was a polymer science engineer. My mom did play piano at a young age and has mentioned several times that she wished she had played violin… so that explains why she was adamant that I play violin!


4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies.

I definitely went through the, “I just want to NOT be different” phase in HS, which was predominantly white in southern New Hampshire. Luckily, playing violin in the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra every weekend helped re-shape my perspective as an Asian American, as I was surrounded by so many inspiring, fun, and hard-working peers who were of Asian descent.


5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)?

As a parent of two half-Korean children (ages 3 and 11 months), it’s more important to me than ever that I feel connected to my culture so I can help my children recognize and believe in the unique quality they hold as biracial children. As one of very few Asian Americans in my predominantly white HS, I’m extremely grateful that my parents instilled the importance of being fluent (lol, middle school level) in the Korean language and learning about our culture through food, celebrations, books etc.


6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)?

I started playing the violin when I was 6. I can’t say it was love at first sight. Unlike the piano, where at least you’re playing in tune (as long as the piano is in tune!), the violin took a long time to actually start sounding decent. There were lots of cringey, scratchy out of tune notes. And tears of frustration! Until one day during my freshman year of HS, I auditioned for and joined the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra and it felt like a light switch had flipped. My love for the violin grew exponentially as I learned how to play with others. Cue the carousel of orchestra rehearsals, chamber music rehearsals, concerto competition wins and summer music camps throughout the rest of HS that all led to studying the violin at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University Bloomington. However, it quickly dawned on me after my sophomore year that a performance degree alone didn’t feel right for me. Luckily, the Jacobs School of Music offered a minor in arts management which I found enriching. It offered a wonderful balance to my violin performance major.

6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now?

I’ll never forget. It was during the Boston University Tanglewood Institute summer camp before junior year of HS. We were rehearsing Mahler Symphony No. 5 in Ozawa Hall which had these large doors that opened up to lush trees and rolling hills. A crazy thunderstorm started right in the middle of rehearsal - I could instantly feel the connection we all shared as we became one with music and nature - I remember thinking at that moment, “Wow, this is it. This is why I want to play music.”

But, of course, fast forward to now and I’m so glad to be behind the scenes, producing and curating music instead of being on stage.

My parents have always been supportive no matter my endeavors, but I think they were especially relieved that I didn’t end up pursuing a career in performance. As fulfilling as it is, the non-stop auditioning and gigging can wear you down. At least, it wasn’t for me, and I’m glad I recognized that early on in my life and am now super fulfilled and inspired being behind the scenes while supporting amazing artists.

 

7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse.

As a violinist in my previous life, I feel really lucky and proud to have worked at some of the finest performing arts organizations in NYC. Working at Carnegie Hall and the Brooklyn Academy of Music before landing at NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers have offered such a unique perspective as I continue to navigate the world of music production while working with some of the most talented, kindest, and hard-working folks in the industry. With all the hats I’ve worn over the last 15 years, I’m furthermore proud of the live music series I launched this year called Did You Hear, where I curate and produce salon-style house concerts featuring emerging and established artists and bands from a variety of backgrounds and genres. With two shows under my belt, the response has been mind-blowing - many have expressed the importance and longing behind intimate live performances and the intangible connection you feel from being one of 60-70 audience members at a show. Did You Hear stands by: “performances so intimate, the artists can hear the audience listening.”


8. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry or in general?

I’ve definitely seen an increase in AAPI presence and acknowledgement in the music industry within the last decade, more than I experienced while starting out in my career. I think it’s largely due to blogs like this (thank you, Summer!) and communities like Asian American Collective, doing an incredible job cultivating Asian American representation within the industry.


9. 9a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why?

9b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general?

I loved when my show (Late Night with Seth Meyers) had R&B singer and rapper, Audrey Nuna (of Korean descent) and the Korean-American indie folk rock band, Run River North. It’s not often you see Asian American artists on major network Late Night television. Was so proud to work with them and know that their success and passion for music inspires so many other aspiring AAPI artists out there. I’m also a big fan of Korean-American singer-songwriter, NoSo, whom I discovered through NPR’s Tiny Desk. As a non-binary artist, NoSo has utilized songwriting as a space in which they process their gender identity. I’m constantly cheering for and inspired by fellow Korean-Americans who are breaking societal norms through their talents, passion, and hard work in an industry where we are typically underrepresented.

 

10. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate.

Running has been a major part of my identity for the last 15 years. 5K races turned into 10Ks, and then those turned into half marathons, and…well, this past April I celebrated my 10th marathon with the Boston Marathon. I’d love to run all six World Marathon Majors (Boston, New York, Chicago, London, Berlin and Tokyo) one day!



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Support Yeji online :)



Image courtesy of Yeji Cha-Beach



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