We had the good fortune of connecting with Karen Yeh and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Karen, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
I have definitely been in this position before and the way that I navigate it is by asking some important questions. Does what I do still light a fire in me? Is it so ingrained in my being that I couldn’t see myself not doing it? Is it just a job or something more than that? And most importantly, why am I doing it? I have a wonderful mentor who asked me that last question when I was feeling down and out. And it was so important for me to sift through all the thoughts and worries that can accompany my field. Being a musician has tested me in ways that I never thought possible. And for me, music is not just a way to pay the bills. In fact, I can think of a million better ways to pay my bills. Music has brought me to places I never thought I would be, like performing on national television or recording the soundtrack to this year’s remake of Mulan. It’s made me take a good hard look at the relationship I have with myself, connected me with thousands of excited fans, and given me an opportunity to share something genuine with others. I know I’ve done my job well when audience members tell me how much they were touched by a performance. There have also been plenty of times that I’ve been chewed up and spat out by myself or others. What helps me during those really difficult times is taking a step back to reassess. Why do I keep going? Because I couldn’t imagine my life without music. It’s a language I’ve grown to know and love, and it feels like home.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a professional cellist and model based in Los Angeles. I studied cello performance in college and grad school and then decided to move here a few years ago to start working. I started modeling with friends and then got signed to an agency representing Asian models and actors. Growing up, it was uncommon for me to see Asians represented in the media, so it is very exciting for me to be involved in this industry. I have played cello for over twenty years and enjoy a varied freelance career. Not only can you see me on the stage giving symphonic performances in concert halls, but I can also be heard on numerous major motion picture films, television series, video games and more. Most recently I also had the amazing opportunity to perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live! alongside Christina Aguilera. This career path came with its own unique set of challenges. When I first moved, I didn’t know anyone and it was a scary and lonely process. I had to overcome a lot of personal challenges in a demanding industry. I have also been constantly surprised by the blessings I’ve been gifted while working in this amazing city. A huge lesson I learned is the importance of working on my own state of mind. The more I can encourage myself, remain calm during stressful situations, and keep working on my craft even when I’m not on the job, the more opportunities seem to come my way. I make it sound simple but the process itself has been anything but. I’ve had to work through past trauma, rewire my thinking process, and create new beliefs. If you had asked me three years ago if I felt like I deserved to be where I am today, I would have said no. But today I will tell you, this is just the beginning of my career. What I would like people to know about me and my story is that this is just the way things are playing out for me. Nobody else is supposed to have the same story and that’s the beauty of life.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I’m going to assume that we would not be in quarantine! The way I love experiencing LA is by doing a whole lot of eating and exploring. I absolutely love finding the most delicious Asian restaurants, so going to Koreatown and the San Gabriel Valley would be a must. I’m the kind of gal that will drive across town for the perfect bowl of Pho. One of my absolute favorite experiences was going to the Malibu Wine Safari for my birthday so that has to be on the list. Animals, gorgeous scenery, and wine tasting, the ultimate trifecta! I also love lazy days, so spending some time hanging out on the beach in Santa Monica followed by some shopping on Third Street Promenade would be my idea of a great day. If it was summertime I would also go to an outdoor concert at the Hollywood Bowl. My favorite thing ever is enjoying outdoor music while sipping on a glass of bubbly. It’s also a great way to meet people: at the last concert I went to when the LA Philharmonic was performing, I bumped into an old classmate I hadn’t seen in over a decade and met some musicians who were from my hometown!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My husband Parker, my mentors Cindy Warden and Ben Hong, and my family and friends.
Ella de Gea, Tony Mastres, Zach Mendez, Jei Romanes