Kaissy Yau graduated last Sunday summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Music – Flute Performance from the Fred Fox School of Music, under the direction of Dr. Brian Luce. She was named the Outstanding Senior, not only for her school, but also for the College of Fine Arts.
During her four years at the University of Arizona, Yau extended herself in numerous corners of the campus, in addition to performing in concerts and ensembles as a soloist and principal flutist. She was the President of the CFA Ambassadors, studied in a one-year cohort at the Eller College of Management and graduated from the Honors College. (She also found time to write stories for the Arizona Arts website.)
In his nominating letter, Professor Luce wrote, “Kaissy is a stunning performer, erudite scholar, bold entrepreneur, innovative yet generous servant, and a humble leader. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, she has created recordings showcasing not only her performance prowess but her musical production acumen as a composer, arranger, engineer, and producer. I am certain she will succeed well outside our institution to make singular artistic and entrepreneurial impacts upon our profession and beyond.”
Her entrepreneurial skills were honed at Eller where she participated in New Venture Development. Her group’s project, Shock Shield, centers on innovative lightning protective technology. More on that later.
Yau was accepted and will attend graduate school at the Northwestern Bienen School of Music.
Kaissy Yau, Outstanding Senior
How did you come to Tucson?
I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I moved to Arizona for my undergraduate degree. One of the main reasons why I chose the University of Arizona is due to my mentor, Dr. Brian Luce. He’s a really famous flute professor, even outside of the States. I knew him from Hong Kong and I got really inspired by his recordings.
How do you do it all?
I’m an obsessive planner. I plan literally every part of my day. I think that just makes me stay on track of everything. Obviously with my music major, doing the entrepreneurship certificate at Eller, in addition to working for Arizona Arts and being the president of the College of Fine Arts Ambassadors … these are all four things I are really passionate about … I definitely have to structure my day so I can utilize my time wisely.
What are your top time management tips?
It’s always better to do it early then leave it last minute. I would rather do an assignment one week or two weeks early, if it’s possible and just it done. It’s like a double sword because I’m also the perfectionist. Sometimes I do get it done early. I just keep nitpicking at it instead of just submitting it. Sometimes I just need to let it go. Utilize your time well, but also make time for things that you enjoy. So, for example, I love working out. That’s something I always try and squeeze in, if I can at least once a day, because that’s a great way for me to just de-stressed.
What was it like performing in the Forbidden City?
That was one of my first memories that made me realize that I wanted to pursue playing an orchestra as a career. I was playing principal flute. I remember we were playing Gershwin’s An American in Paris. I just remember the sensation of finishing the piece. That’s quite a long piece, 20, 21 minutes and when we finished the piece, the conductor cued me to stand. It’s this indescribable feeling, but that’s when I knew that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. So that’s a super monumental moment in my ‘quote unquote’ career.
How did you get involved with the Eller program?
My mentor, Dr. Brian Luce actually really pushed me to do the entrepreneurship course. He believes that obviously you have to be a wonderful musician, have great technical ability and musical expression, but in all honesty, the music industry is just so difficult and so challenging to navigate, and having that additional skillset, whether that be interpersonal skills, et cetera. Entrepreneurs and successful creatives share a lot of core characteristics. He thought I would be a great fit. And I really enjoyed my time there; it was just a great experience. Having that one-year long experience and really understanding how difficult and, but also learning the skills to create a business has been really beneficial.
Talk about your Eller project.
The program really pushes you and prepares you to, if you have the necessary resources and skillsets, for you to actually launch your venture. It’s called the New Venture Development program. So initially we didn’t start with this idea, but our team mentor, John Sharp introduced us to the IP partner. That’s how we got connected to this idea of lightning protective technology. And I think with my partner, David Lyons, being struck by lightning and being a lightning victim that just really pushed us to really want to launch this business. We traveled to California for lightning laboratory testing. That made it real. Some of the ventures, they’re stay in the early stages where they’re creating their prototypes. They don’t hold something that’s of substance. It’s just still an idea. But when we actually got to witness that lightning lab testing, I think that just really struck us that this is something that we can actually do and that we can really potentially save lives. That’s what pushed us. Right now we still need a lot more further testing to launch our business.
Why was it important for you to be involved with the CFA Ambassadors?
The college has given me so much, not only with how much I’ve grown as a flutist, but it’s really shaped me to become a leader. I just wanted to give back. The experience of knowing that someone that you played a role in possibly someone coming to the University of Arizona is just so rewarding. And I love that feeling.
And you also wrote from the Arizona Arts Digital Storytellers.
I’ve loved working as a part of that team, whether that be creating content for social media, working on articles, interviewing our faculty and students and just creating a community. We’re creating stories that tie our community together. A lot of times I hear that our four schools are so separate. And I think Arizona Arts is just a wonderful way to bind them all together.
What was your experience like at the University of Arizona?
It was great. I have no words, actually, to describe it. I remember coming here being so far away from home and obviously feeling mixed emotions like, Oh, did I make the right decision? I’m all by myself. You know, I had no friends before coming here, but I’m just so grateful for all the friends I’ve made. Shout out to my best friend, Diego Abeytia, all the faculty who have just been so supportive as well as all the staff, especially the Arizona Arts staff. I’m just so thankful because I think they’ve built me to be the person I am and someone I hope can inspire others.