Yasmeen began her studies of violin at the age of six under the instruction of Fudeko Takahashi at the New England Conservatory. She has performed all over the world, particularly in Germany, Italy, England, Austria, and the Czech Republic as well as in the United States in revered venues such as Carnegie Hall, Symphony Hall, Royce Hall, and Tanglewood. Yasmeen majored in violin performance and political science at UCLA. After arriving at university, she won the 2013 UCLA All-Star Competition and performed as a soloist alongside the UCLA Philharmonia. She has branched out in a variety of genres: in 2013 she opened the American Music Awards under a Coca Cola sponsorship, and has worked with successful famous musicians, including Jason DeRulo, Hans Zimmer, Wale, Karmin, Melissa Etheridge, and works regularly with successful YouTube stars Sam Tsui and Kurt Hugo Schneider. Yasmeen is currently writing, producing, and recording an electronic solo project, self-titled "Yazzy." She released her first official single, "Ghost" on streaming services May 5th (scroll down to listen to "Ghost" directly on this page).
How did you get to where you are today?
My mother was a jazz singer/chef that owned her own restaurant. My sister was an international award winning pianist. My brothers were both professional sports players. My dad was a big shot in the energy sector. As you can imagine, there was always a very high bar that was set, and so it was implied that I needed my own thing to be good at-so I chose violin at the age of 6. It came with expensive social costs- I didn’t have a life until college. It was sixteen hour rehearsals a weekend, competitions and performances every month, international tours every year, music camps every summer. I didn’t even know what a day off was. My parents pushed me, some could say a little too much, but in retrospect I am deeply grateful that they did, or else I would not have the drive or the motivation that I do today.
I had a hard time in high school making friendships that I felt fulfilled by, so I turned all of that energy and loneliness to music. To this day, it is the language I turn to whenever I want to express myself, and I feel lucky to have been given such a privilege. Because it fulfills me so much, it does not even feel like work.
There are many children who do not continue their craft after getting into college. There was a pivotal moment that changed this for me- I was touring in Vienna, Austria, where I got to play the most beautiful piece in the most prestigious concert hall in the world. My live-in grandma had died a few months prior, days before I was supposed to perform at Carnegie Hall. Leading to her death, she was always talking about how excited she was to hear me play there and how proud she was of me. Her last words were “I can hear it. You sound so beautiful.” As paranormal as this may sound, I felt her presence with me on stage in Vienna. And I felt so damn fulfilled. I remember my heart feeling so full and I just felt the purest form of happiness. That performance was the exact moment I decided I would continue music for the rest of my life.
What was your toughest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
Mental health. So often, this is the last priority for those who are trying to make something out of themselves. In addition, I came from an immigrant family where mental health was not really something we discussed. In college, I had trouble maintaining two majors, three jobs, and a social life. My physical health deteriorated, and slowly but surely my mental health did as well. It got to a point where I had trouble interacting with others, or having any interest to do anything for that matter, and I developed such anxiety that I had to drop out of school for a little while. There was a stigma that came with getting help, and initially I was not interested, but it got to a point where I had no other choice. Four years in and I love therapy and all that it has taught me, about myself, and how to be the best version of myself while simultaneously taking care of my well being.
Now I follow a strict regimen and make choices based on how it will affect my mental health. I work out four times a week, try to maintain a strict eating and sleeping schedule, and make healthy choices in my relationships with others to make sure I take care of myself. After all, the only one that will take care of you is you.
What’s the key to staying focused & motivated?
For me, it is knowing that there are so many other people out there that are just as talented as me. Some will get discovered, but the majority will not. It is the drive that makes one stand out and ultimately gets that individual to where they want to be. There are many talented musicians out there that will never be heard unless they go the extra ten miles. You have to educate yourself in the business, learn how to be self-sufficient, and become well-rounded. This goes way beyond the music making element. I am currently working on understanding the industry more so that I can become more self-sufficient, which is very important when you are working on your music. If you depend on others, your work is always contingent on their availability and timeline. So, I have started to learn how to produce, how to record, and do all the major things by myself.
Another key element, is believing in that you will succeed. This may sound cheesy, but if you ever doubt yourself for a second, with that mentality you will never get to where you want to be. I NEED to believe that my music is good, that I have talent, that I will make it. If you present your product with that kind of attitude, other people see that charisma and they believe in you too.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Everything will work out as it should. Many things that feel like blows now are lessons and blessings in disguise, and it is only with time that you are able to see that in perspective. This applies to all aspects of my life. Friendships, relationships, career wise, personal struggles. Listening to this advice has really brought me so much internal peace. Now I am thankful for every experience, both positive and negative, because there are so many lessons to be learned from everything that will help you grow and evolve. That way, you learn for the next time you are in a similar position.
How do we get more women leaders?
I honestly think it starts with building confidence and empowering women. Our society is not really built to work alongside this – the wage gap, impossible beauty standards, the inequality that we all still face day to day and unfortunately now feels normalized- we are not set up to succeed.
I think we need to start educating young women regarding empowerment early. As early as middle or high school so that they believe that they can stand alongside their male counterparts in power and success. It starts with providing mentors to young girls to give them an example of what kind of woman they can be. We need to keep on fighting for equal education opportunities. We should continue social mobilization to end gender based violence. Finally, I think we should raise young women in such a way that they do not compete against each other, but motivate each other.