Arts & Culture 

Taking a leap of faith

International education Music

Ye Lynn Han’s path to NAU began at a choir festival in London. There, the aspiring musician met NAU Regents’ Professor and Director of Choral Studies Edith Copley. Copley saw promise in Ye Lynn and invited him to NAU.

Despite having never been to Arizona, Ye Lynn took a leap of faith and, with logistical help from NAU’s Center for International Education, relocated stateside to Flagstaff.

His first thought: “Everything was beautiful. The trees—it was gorgeous.”

Growing into a star performer

With some hard work, the senior Vocal Performance major from the Republic of Myanmar became a standout singer.

“I’m not really a natural performer,” he said. “I grew up very conservative, personality-wise. And being from an Asian country, we don’t really express ourselves that intensely, like opera requires you to do. So these past four years have been an uphill battle for becoming more expressive.”

His success on the stage during his college career testifies to his success at learning to be a performer.

He sang the lead role in The Magic Flute in his first opera performance at NAU; the 2018 production won first place in the National Opera Association Opera Production Competition. Since then, he’s performed in various different roles here and overseas, including a summer program in Italy and a professional production in Bulgaria.

For music, we have fantastic teachers. And I think that’s pretty consistent throughout NAU. The strength of the school comes from the faculty.

It was encouragement from Lyric Theater Director and Associate Professor of Practice Eric Gibson that led him to the stage in Bulgaria. The role was competitive and Ye Lynn was up against students as well as professional singers from around the world.

“It was pretty amazing,” he said, “because the two other tenors there were 35 and 31. It was so intense.”

Ye Lynn Han singing from a libretto in an open field

After he graduates in the spring, Ye Lynn is looking to continue his vocal studies at graduate school. He also aspires to sing professionally and, eventually, to teach voice.

Associate Professor of Music Ricardo Pereira has also been an important mentor to Ye Lynn.

“He’s been my voice teacher since my first year here, and he’s brought me from someone who didn’t know anything to where I am today. He’s guided me every step of the way. If I need anything, he’ll be there for me.”

He has also received a lot of support, including scholarships to help pay for his summer programs, from the College of Arts and Letters. He said he’s proud of what he has accomplished here.

“The operas we’ve put on have been extremely gratifying and educational to participate in. What I’m most proud of was The Magic Flute. I played Tamino (the lead character) as a second-semester sophomore. It was an uphill battle because we were trying to tackle extremely difficult music, both technically and musically. And then my classmate, who was also playing Tamino, got very sick, so I had to take on three nights in a row, which, as a 20-year-old was pretty intense. But I got through it, and it’s something I can be super proud of.”

Standout teachers and facilities

The faculty and the facilities have provided Ye Lynn with the strong foundation he needed to reach his musical aspirations.

“For music, we have fantastic teachers,” he said. “And I think that’s pretty consistent throughout NAU. The strength of the school comes from the faculty.”

The facilities are another point of pride.

“In the past few years, we’ve gotten a lot of really good facilities, like the new Kitt Recital Hall. That’s a game changer. The acoustics—you feel like a professional.”

In addition to the vocal program, Ye Lynn enjoys his more traditional academic courses as well.

Ye Lynn said he is grateful for that chance meeting with Dr. Copley that led him from London to Flagstaff.

“NAU has been a very foundational experience for me.”