We are deeply saddened to share the news of the passing of Yuan-Mei Xing, a devoted and beloved member of the Orchestra of Indian Hill violin section for 26 years, on Friday August 10 after a 2 year battle with lung cancer. Until her illness, she almost never missed a concert. Her colleagues will always remember her musicianship and beautiful spirit. Steve Jackson, our principal clarinetist and Yuan-Mei’s partner wrote this obituary. May her extraordinary life story be an inspiration and example for us all.
Dear Friends, Students, and Colleagues of Yuan-Mei Xing,
With sadness I must report that our beloved Yuan-Mei passed away on August 10th 2018 from complications of lung cancer. Her passing at a hospice facility in Lincoln MA was peaceful and painless. She was 60. She is survived by her mother Mei-Xiu, brother Yuan-Long, and niece Ying-Xue, all of Chengdu China, a niece, Sitao, of Long Island NY, and her partner, Steven Jackson, of Watertown MA. Yuan-Mei lived well beyond the expectations of her diagnosis which she received in 2016.
Yuan-Mei was among the first generation of Chinese-trained western classical musicians to experience the privations of Mao’s Cultural Revolution and go on to achieve musical success in this country at the professional level. She leaves a legacy as devoted friend, musician, and teacher who gave herself unstintingly to us and the music she loved.
Yuan-Mei Xing was born in Chengdu, Szechuan Province, China in 1957. Her father was professor of clarinet at Szechuan Conservatory of Music, her mother a singer in the local state opera company. Yuan-Mei attended the Chengdu Arts Academy High School. Upon graduation the Chinese government imposed “re-education” upon privileged youth such as her, sending many to farming communities to participate in agricultural production. In these years her father, a leading clarinet teacher, was paraded by the Red Guard through the streets of his own neighborhood wearing a dunce cap, a memory that even in later years filled Yuan-Mei’s face with tears. Her primary violin teacher, a professor at Szechuan Conservatory, was stripped of his teaching duties and made to clean the school toilets. Yuan-Mei herself was relocated to a remote rural area where she hauled dirt on her back and harvested wheat and other crops by hand. In the evenings she played violin for entertainment at village meetings. Yet Yuan-Mei was not bitter. Instead she preferred to recall the beauty of the countryside and decency of the farmers who received her into their homes and communities. By 1977 Yuan-Mei was granted a position in the Cultural Radio Station Symphony Orchestra in Beijing. This group recorded music for state sponsored media. Sensing the limitations of this position she entered the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 1982 to continue her musical education. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree there then returned to Chengdu to perform in a dancing school orchestra. During this time she married Li Fan, a childhood friend and classical pianist who also later immigrated to the United States. The two eventually divorced.
Again sensing limitations in musical life of Chengdu, Yuan-Mei came to the United States in 1989 to pursue a Master’s Degree at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge MA. She earned her Master’s and began teaching at the New School of Music in Cambridge and at her alma mater, the Longy School, in its Preparatory Division. She taught at Longy for over fifteen years until the school closed her Division and dismissed its faculty. Nevertheless Yuan-Mei continued to serve the local amateur and pre-college student community from her own home to the end of her life. She maintained a studio of private students whom she regularly presented, sometimes over twenty students at a time, in recital at various community venues. She also organized from her home with her partner Steven Jackson a summer music camp for primary school age children that included instruction in violin performance, chamber music, music theory, and music history.
By leaving China and dedicating herself throughout her life to western classical music in the United States, Yuan-Mei defied and exceeded the expectations of her family and native culture. She became a U.S. citizen in 1999. In her adopted country she became a respected performer and teacher, member of the Orchestra of Indian Hill for over twenty years, and a regular in professional symphonic and musical theater productions throughout New England. She was also a member of the Auburn Piano Trio which performed classical masterworks for that combination in the Boston area.
As a teacher, Yuan-Mei inspired students to the same devotion to music and principle that guided her own life. In the institutional setting she was often assigned students no other teacher wanted. She accepted them without complaint. Usually, they achieved significant progress under her tutelage. Always she earned their lasting affection.
To the Chinese-American community for whom she worked mostly, Yuan-Mei was mother, sister, positive influence upon the young, focus of community, and foothold into American society. To parents she was an accessible and unpretentious professional whose advice could be trusted, for she was a living example of a successful life achieved in this country through talent and force of will.
Yuan-Mei loved her students without condescension, regardless of race, age, or ability. Toward the young and inexperienced she took the mantle of authority sternly. But she was not above expressing childlike delight at each sign of improvement. Toward the talented and successful she was never intimidated or stingy of praise.
She protected and fought for the child within herself. For this reason children loved and respected her. Whether she knew you well or not, she did not conceal her anger if you violated what is right and true. But if you kept those standards you were her friend for life. Her honesty, in music and life, was incorruptible. So, too, her ability to laugh at hardship. For she had learned from bitterness how strong she was and how to endure.
Yuan-Mei contributed to the lives of so many through her dedication to music, seriousness of purpose, love of the young, faithfulness to friends, boisterous laugh, and sweet soul. May we know how to rightly cherish her memory.