Xuefei Yang – Diary

A week with… Xuefei Yang, classical guitarist and Artistic Director of the Changsha International Guitar Festival in China


After running a five-mile race the day before, I wake up on Monday with slightly heavy legs. A strong breakfast coffee helps me focus on the main events of the week: preparing for this weekend’s concert in Lucerne, finalising a few concert programmes and the release of my new digital album, X Culture [“cross culture”]. However, my immediate concern is whether or not I will receive my guitar in time for my Swiss concert! 

My main concert guitar has an unusual design in that the neck is separable from the body, and it has been in Australia for several weeks being repaired. It was due back last week but the postal tracker shows it’s still en-route. Although I have several guitars, as their individual characters inspire me when practising different music, I would really like to use my primary concert instrument for my recital in Switzerland, so I am feeling a little anxious that it’s not yet back in my hands.


Tuesday morning starts with a letter from the post office explaining the delay to my guitar neck – an import duty needs to be paid before they will release it, so I’m on the phone to get it sorted out. 

More phone calls follow with my China team about future concerts. I spend most of the day looking at repertoire for upcoming concerts as I have a few different collaborations this season, including a big concert in the NCPA [National Centre for Performing Arts] this month. It’s the most prestigious venue in China and the concert hall has 1,800 seats to fill. For this concert I’ll be collaborating with a qin player. Guitar with qin [a seven-stringed zither] is a new and unique combination, so sourcing repertoire for the duo requires some creativity, thought and knowledge. It involves making new arrangements and commissioning some new works. This takes lots of time and many discussions over the phone. 

My head feels stuffy because my mind is full of music and lots of ideas and possibilities yet to be decided. Being outside in nature always helps me to think clearly and at 7.30pm I find myself on the start line for a 5K race adjacent to the River Thames, not far from home.  


A welcome knock on the door – the guitar neck is back from its travels! It takes a morning to reattach it to the body and restring the guitar ready for Sunday’s concert.

I join a Zoom session with Spotify in the afternoon to learn more about its most recent promotional offering. I’m particularly interested in this because of my new album. I also have a phone call with the organiser of the Changsha International Guitar Festival, where I am the Artistic Director. After three years of pandemic, we recently received funding and government permission to revive the international portion of the festival this summer. It’s welcome news but it also means we have to implement plans very quickly too. 

With Sunday’s concert approaching, I make sure I practise the challenging parts of the repertoire, in addition to a complete play through of the concert programme in the evening. 


My London team has done an excellent job working with the promoter to organise the logistics for my upcoming trip to Switzerland, and I have received my itinerary via email. Even with the detailed schedule I still need to prepare myself, so I spend some time looking at the train schedule and understanding how the train ticketing works in Switzerland.  

I like to play at night because China is asleep and the UK is off work, so I can be in my own world and not deal with emails or other electronic messages. Playing through the concert programme with my main instrument back in my hands feels good, like a sweet reunion with a partner.

Tomorrow, X Culture will be released. I check Apple Music, Spotify and the other streaming platforms right after midnight to see my new “baby”. I can’t resist listening to the entire album to hear how the tracks sound online. I post news about the album release on the Chinese social media platforms as they are seven hours ahead of the UK.


The UK team has prepared some social assets ready for the album launch, but even with this help I still spend a lot of time promoting the new album on both my website and various social media platforms. I don’t mind doing this because I put so much effort and love into the album and want other people to enjoy it and feel inspired. In addition to the usual Western platforms like Facebook, Instagram, etc, I also have all the Chinese social media platforms to manage too. 

I have another play through the whole programme ahead of Sunday’s concert. At this point, it’s more of a mental than a physical practice because my fingers can do all the work, but my mind really needs to focus, especially with all the little things in life that can get in the way.

After dinner it’s time for a routine I know well – packing the suitcase ready for a morning flight. I like multi-functional and matching items, so I typically pack red, black and white clothing so I can mix and match easily. 


I was already awake when the alarm went off at 5am. I don’t feel like I’ve slept much, probably because I was worried about missing my alarm or about my Uber not arriving in time to take me to London City Airport.  

Due to the change in time zone, it is already afternoon when I arrive in Zurich. The transport system is so well integrated here, with the railway station on the floor beneath the arrivals hall. Once on the train I check my new album online and am glad to see it featured on some Spotify and Apple playlists. I also message the promoter to let her know my arrival time and also set the alarm on my phone just in case I fall asleep and miss my stop. I finally arrive at the hotel. I feel tired, but it’s good to play through the concert programme when you are tired as it helps highlight potential weak spots. 

In the evening I go for a walk in town and find something to eat. I like to get a feel of the place and its people ahead of the concert and I love exploring different places and cultures. I’ve played in Lucerne before with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, but I didn’t have time to look around, so this time I want to explore a little more.


I follow my usual concert day routine of a good breakfast followed by playing through the whole programme.

After lunch I usually have a nap or meditate if I can’t sleep. Before the concert, I try to forget about other things and clear my mind. The concert goes well, and I felt at one with my guitar. I meet the audience and sign CDs after the concert; a long line of people buying CDs always indicates that they enjoyed the performance. I generally prefer to see a group of people with a cross-section of ages and races as I always try to have something for everyone in my programmes. My day ends enjoying a pizza with the promoter and a small group of their colleagues. A Swiss luthier has brought two guitars with him, so after the meal I try them at the restaurant. These casual times seem to be enjoyed by everyone. It brings to mind one of the things I love most about the guitar, which is that it is both intimate and social.

Xuefei Yang is a classical guitarist and Artistic Director of the Changsha International Guitar Festival in China. Her new digital album X Culture celebrates the creativity that comes from openness to other cultures.