Q&A with Associate Principal Second Violin, Xin (James) Jin

APO’s Ben Gemmell talks to APO Associate Principal Second Violin Xin (James) Jin about his garden and the fascinating art of calligraphy.

Where are you from?
I am from China originally, but I have lived and studied in both New Zealand and the USA.

How long have you been a musician in the APO?
Officially since 2015, though I had some trial concerts before that, in 2014.

As well as performing in the orchestra, you also present the APO Up Close series. Can you explain what these concerts are about?
From my perspective it is simply doing what I love to do – playing good music with good people! As a broader view, these concerts focus on a specific instrument or composer, and get ‘up close’ with them to learn what they’re all about.

It’s a mix of music and education, designed to bring people of all ages and backgrounds to the APO, and to cultivate and hopefully pass on that love and passion for music.

What is your musical background?
A solid one 🙂 I have come from three generations of professional musicians.

Can you play any another instrument, other than the violin?
I could play the viola, although I’m not sure if my colleagues would approve of that. And I can just about play the piano.

How did you pass the time during New Zealand’s lockdown?
To be honest it was a great opportunity for me to do things that I really enjoy but otherwise would not have had the time to do.

I recently watched an interview on Facebook with a conductor who was hoping to use the time to learn scores, but soon realised that he couldn’t be productive without being interactive with other people. Poor soul!

I am the complete opposite, I see (too much) socialising as a distraction to the cultivation and development of my spiritual or inner life.

I happily read, studied, wrote, practised, worshipped, cooked, cleaned, gardened, and watched TV with my wife Xing during the lockdown. We also taught a fair number of online music lessons.


Sir Andrew Davis 2000x1300

What are your interests outside of music?
Classical Chinese literature and calligraphy, Buddhism, history, and gardening. However, I have to point out though that one cannot call these “hobbies” as that is a tremendous understatement.

They are important practices to be revered, and just like music, one should honour them with a lifetime’s dedication.

Xing and I are lucky to have Master Xinming as our mentor for classical Chinese literature and calligraphy. She is one of the most amazing and important people in our lives.

What makes you happiest?
Spending time with Xing, seeing compassion in society, playing Bach’s Chaconne and practising calligraphy.

What might surprise people to know about you?
That I keep two rabbits.

Quickfire! What is your favourite-at-the-moment...?
Book: The biography of Monk Xuanzang
MovieStill Walking (Japanese 2008 film)
TV ShowGardener’s World
Food: Anything Xing cooks
Song: ‘Der Dichter spricht’ from Schumann’s Kinderszenen

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