Everyday People: Ying Lam Eva Chu

Whether playing or conducting, grad student Ying Lam Eva Chu is making serious noise in the School of Music.

photo of Chu beside her harp by Cardoni

The "Horizontal Harp"

Ying Lam Eva Chu started playing the guzheng, an ancient Chinese stringed instrument, at home when she was just 4 years old. (The guzheng’s popularity in China is akin to that of the piano in the United States.) “Everything is tuned,” she explains. “Just pluck it and there will be beautiful sounds.” After years of practicing, she majored in music at the University of Hong Kong; while there, she dabbled in another musical talent—conducting. Now, she is completing her master’s degree in orchestral conducting at Penn State. Says Chu: “I want to know how far I can go.”


Maestra in the Making

Chu says that there’s much more to being a conductor than understanding the music. The job is also about having the ability to lead, inspire, and communicate with people: “The players have to be willing to play for you.”


Handle with Care

She couldn’t bring her guzheng from China because the pressure and temperature inside an aircraft might damage the long wooden instrument. Instead, she purchased one from a specialty shop in California and shipped it to school.


Western Education

Chu has been soaking in the expertise of Penn State director of orchestral studies and maestro Gerardo Edelstein. In addition to studying the history and nuances of Western orchestral conducting—Chinese orchestras, for example, don’t have a brass section—she’s getting hands-on experience conducting performances by the Penn State Philharmonic Orchestra.


Global Influence

When Chu left Hong Kong in 2018 to be an exchange student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, she performed recitals and hosted several guest lectures to promote Chinese music and the guzheng. “I played my own music in a foreign country,” she says. “We use different instruments, but the purpose is the same—to make it sound good for the audience.”  


Hometown: Hong Kong

Campus: University Park

Claim to Fame: Standout musician and graduate student conductor

Hobbies: The globetrotter has visited major cities from Boston to Los Angeles; seen Alaska’s northern lights; and even hiked several days to Machu Picchu.