Student Spotlight: Xingyao Xue

The marimba player and performance major talks about her growing interest in jazz and composition as well as her love of performance.

April 10, 2023

What’s it like to study at Berklee? Our Student Spotlight series asks current students all about their Berklee experience—what they’re learning in class, what kinds of projects they’re involved in onstage or behind the scenes, how they recharge, and of course, what they’re listening to. This week, get to know Xingyao (Phina) Xue, a seventh-semester marimba player and performance major from Shanxi, China.

Tell us about your path to Berklee. What made you decide to come here?

Berklee offered me the opportunity to focus on learning to play the marimba and almost everything about jazz, as I am very interested in learning about jazz theory and jazz vibraphone techniques. Also, I had heard I could get more chances to play on stages and get more performance experience.

What's been your favorite class so far, and what has it taught you?

My marimba ensemble course with Professor Nancy Zeltsman is my favorite. We played new pieces every week and learned a lot of music in that class. Everyone got a chance to choose a piece to play with others. She helped us adapt our own versions of scores and checked with the composer to make sure that the performance and the way it was presented was what the composer had in mind. She also often recommends good competition or performance opportunities for me to let more people see my work.

Xingyao Xue playing marimba on stage

What's a project you've worked on since coming to Berklee that you've been especially excited about?

My harmony class project is the most exciting for me. I started to learn music with scores, and I never thought I could make music by myself. I followed the steps my teacher gave me to write out the chord progressions, and then I wrote the score and arranged the music step by step. I was very excited to hear the music I had written for the first time. After that, I started to try to adapt my favorite songs and classical music pieces.

How do you typically recharge or find new ideas outside of class?

Playing with a group of friends can help me recharge myself. Also, I like to go out for walks. Boston has a lot of views and nice buildings. I also enjoy finding a quiet place to walk and talk with my sister.

What careers are you interested in pursuing in the future?

Performing on stage is what excites me the most, and as my goal is to be a professional marimba performer.

When you think towards your own future, who inspires you most?

Nancy Zeltsman is one of the performers I really admire. She takes each piece of music seriously and has a charismatic presence on stage. She always brings me inspiration and ideas every time I take a class with her.

What's one piece of advice you'd give to your high school self?

You only live once, enjoy your life, and practice more!

Xingyao’s Top Five Favorite Songs Right Now

We asked Xingyao to share five of her recent favorite songs. Here's what she said:

1. "Light Switch," Charlie Puth

He is very creative and talented. I really enjoy how he can use any sound that we can hear around us as inspiration for his songs.

2. "搁浅" (tr. "Step Aside"), Jay Chou 周杰伦

3. "Los Paraguas," Nancy Zeltsman

I can feel the different characters and mood changes in her playing.

4. "Ylang Ylang," FKJ

5. "O Pato," Karrin Allyson

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