Yu Yao started learning the erhu from Mr Wang Fang Liang at the age of 14 and graduated from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) with a Diploma in Music Performance. He was a member of the Singapore Youth Chinese Orchestra and the NAFA Chinese Ensemble and was the Erhu principal player in 2005 and 2008 respectively.
In 2008, he was chosen to perform the Jinghu and Percussion Duet A Night’s Thoughts in the inaugural SYCO Chamber Music Recital. In 2009, he won the Bronze award at the 1st International Chinese Music Competition in Hong Kong. A year later, he won the 3rd prize at the National Chinese Music Competition Open Category organized by the National Arts Council. He was a frequent guest performer at various Chinese orchestras like Hsing Hai Chinese Orchestra, Nanyang Polytechnic Chinese Orchestra, Chengsan Chinese Orchestra and Foochow Association Chinese Orchestra.
Yu Yao graduated with a Bachelor in Ethnomusicology from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London in 2016. During his three years in London, Yu Yao was involved in numerous performances and was also the Erhu teacher at the University. He led the University’s Silk and Bamboo Ensemble and performed as a soloist with the UK Chinese Ensemble. He also performed with the Yin Yang Collective, a British Chinese-Western fusion band whose repertoire included country dances, tangos, folk music and Classical evergreens.
Besides playing the Erhu, he was also involved with the SOAS Thai music group as a Khong Wong Yai (gong circle) player and an Oud (Middle Eastern lute) player with the SOAS Middle Eastern Ensemble. Being exposed to an array of musical traditions at SOAS, he took an interest in Turkish Classical Music and studied the Turkish-style Oud playing with Francesco Iannuzzelli and Baha Yetkin.