Landing a place at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia was a once-in-a-life-time opportunity for Ouyang Nana – which is why there was such shock when the young Chinese cellist dropped out in 2015 to pursue a career in show business. Ouyang, 20, was on a full scholarship at the prestigious American music school, one of the best in the world, which counts Chinese pianists Lang Lang and Yuja Wang among its alumni. Aborting her studies at Curtis was the first important decision she had made for herself, she says. “Everybody thought I’d lost my mind … [but] I don’t want my life to be just about the cello. I want to try [more different things],” she says. Since then, Ouyang has appeared in films alongside stars such as Eddie Peng Yu-yan in To The Fore (2015) and Huang Xiaoming in Mission Milano (2016), and in television shows such as Yes Mr Fashion (2016). She was nominated for best supporting actress at the 7th Macau International Movie Festival for her role in To The Fore . Ouyang has also branched into singing, performing at a pop awards show in Taipei in 2016. Critics noted that vocal talent might run in the family, pointing out that her aunt is none other than the veteran Taiwanese pop singer Ouyang Feifei. At the awards show, Ouyang had said of her performance: “I don’t feel nervous playing the cello, but I feel very nervous singing. I feel like a kindergarten student today.” Yo-Yo Ma on how young musicians can help change lives She need not have worried – since that performance, she has signed with Sony Music Entertainment and released her first pop album, Nana I , which consists of three English love songs for which she shares writing credits. Nana II , a series of original Chinese songs, will be released in October. Ouyang says many doubted her debut EP would do well in China, where the pop music market is dominated by Chinese songs – but people loved it. Despite her budding acting and singing careers, Ouyang says her lifelong passion remains the cello. “The cello is the musical instrument that can produce sounds that most resemble the human voice. I cannot imagine how my life would be without it,” she tells the Post . In 2018, Ouyang returned to education, heading to the Berklee College of Music in Boston to study the cello. She says she is grateful to her parents for supporting her decision to quit her studies at Curtis. “I told them then I’d never give up studying [cello] and music. I told myself then I will go back to university at the age of 18 [which I eventually did]. My biggest reward from studying at Berklee was that I started making my own music,” she says. Ouyang isn’t the only member of her family to work in music and show business. Her father, Ouyang Long, is a singer, actor and politician in Taiwan; her mother, Fu Chuen, is a former actress; and both her older sister, Nini, and younger sister, Didi, are actresses. While still a child, Ouyang had carved out an illustrious career in classical music. She held her first solo concert at the age of 10, and became the youngest performer to give a solo debut at the National Concert Hall in Taipei in 2012. In 2015, she gave a recital at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. She has two classical albums under her belt, 15 and Cello Loves Disney . “From classical to pop, from performing [as a soloist] to making my own music, I have turned my interest and passion into work and career, one step at a time,” she says.