At the age of 41, when most people would have settled down or at least were preparing to, single mother Yew Hooi Leng sold off her grand piano, handed over her piano students to other teachers, packed her bags and with three young children in tow, accepted a marriage proposal from Jeff Evers, and relocated with him to Spokane, Washington in the United States of America.
The drastic change was not a leap of faith, though. In her home country of Malaysia, Yew was already a celebrated concert pianist who had performed for Tun Dato’ Seri Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, the then Prime Minister, as well as other dignitaries, and even the King and Queen at the palace. By then, she has already performed in a multitude of concerts in America, too.
Growing up in Ipoh, Yew’s musical talent was discovered at the tender age of four when she played with her toy piano, a birthday gift from her father. Since then, Yew’s musical skills developed rapidly thanks to a gifted ear for music and her inherent understanding of it and by the age of six, started to perform publicly. Three years later, Yew began composing and improvising music.
Coming from a middle-class family, Yew led a comfortable teenage life but her musical career began at the age of 15 as a piano teacher for children due to her love for music, a job she kept until she left for Trinity College of Music in London to obtain her Associateship (ATCL) and Licentiateship (LTCL) performance diplomas.
Yew added, “Upon graduation, I returned to Malaysia and continued to teach children as I further explored opportunities to bring my brand of music to more people, either as a performer, music arranger or composer.”
But in 2009, with the marriage proposal from Evers and the decision to relocate to America, Yew felt that the move would open more doors for her music and it surely did. In the midst of building her teaching career in a new city, the following year, Yew, now known as Lynn Yew Evers, published her debut album, The Falling Leaves. It tells of her experiences of her first year living in America. “It was an album of firsts, so to speak. I translated into music my experiences of the different seasons and even my first ride on a Harley!” Yew exclaimed.
That album was followed by ‘Dawn of Peace’ two years later. Of Neo-Classical genre, it projects Yew’s deep connection with nature which originated from her childhood in Ipoh.
Another two years went by and Yew released her debut single, Without Words. Described as calming, peaceful and relaxing, it was composed while she was home alone one day, where she discovered peace in solitude.
This year sees the release of Elysian, a second collaboration with Grammy-winning producer, Will Ackerman, after Dawn of Peace. Elysian, which means heavenly, is an emotional album, one of the most personal that Yew has ever released. It tells of a fifteen-year long journey from the point of the collapse of her marriage in Ipoh to her arrival in Spokane, Washington to achieving her current peace of mind and stability, at the age of 48.
One of the tracks from Elysian, Bluebird Day, has been nominated in Hollywood Music and Media Awards. Yew will be attending the awards in Hollywood this November. Even for a multi-talented, award-winning concert pianist, the impending trip has brought plenty of excitement to Yew. However, in the middle of press interviews and a packed schedule of performances around the country, including at Carnegie Hall this October, Yew has not forgotten her roots in Malaysia, or the charity concerts that she used to perform or supported.
During a trip home to Malaysia in April this year, Yew got talking to a friend regarding putting up a charity concert in conjunction with the release of Elysian. And that was how she was introduced to Perak Women For Women Society (PWW) and learnt about the work the non-governmental organisation is doing to enhance the lives of women in Perak, regardless of race, religion or social background by providing every possible means of assistance and support for women and their children who are victims of abuse and discrimination.
Yew said, “As I was myself a single mother for many years, I understood how tough life could be for them; so, I agreed to support this cause. I will be making a special trip to Ipoh this August. I am very excited about it as it would be very meaningful for my children and I. Joining me on stage are saxophonist Foo Cheong Lin, flautist Cheryl Lee Foong Xin, bassist Rester Ng Heng Young and cellist Liew Soon Yee. I hope everyone comes and supports the concert and in turn, helps women and children in crisis.”
Note: An edited version of this article [Unwavering Musical Journey] was published as Cover Story (Life) on 25th July, 2016 in The Malay Mail.