When Yao was born in a remote village in China, his family could never have guessed he would leave his humble beginnings to embark on an international career that would take him from the boardroom headquarters of L’Oreal to the bright lights of the Metropolitan Opera.
The journey was not an easy one, but in many ways the challenges Yao faced would go on to shape the man he would become. At the age of six, he moved to a larger town to attend school and was mortified to hear his country accent mocked by the other students. Shy and introverted, Yao was frustrated at being singled-out just because of the way he spoke, and began to carefully study the accents of his tormentors, the shape of their lips, the roll of a tongue, sounds that came from deep within the chest versus those that were born from the tongue and throat. News anchors were particularly inspiring, and after hours of careful practice Yao found himself able to replicate an educated Chinese accent.
This skill paid off handsomely, and Yao was hired as a newsreader on a local radio station for the next three years. But his obsession for accents had only just begun.
After obtaining a degree in English literature, Yao was hired by the Canadian Consulate as a linguistics specialist. This led to a stint in France, where he achieved accent-free fluency in the language in just ten months. Gone was the red-faced village boy. Yao now attended Parisian parties and smiled as his native hosts asked which part of the city he’d grown up in.
This passion for voice and identity led to extensive research in both foreign language acquisition and pronunciation, and Yao began to work with musicians, eventually publishing a DVD on the relationship between language and music, as well as how music could be used to accelerate foreign language studies.
Over the years the unassuming Yao has worked as a specialist teacher and consultant for the Chazen Institute of Columbia University, Interbrand New York and Fortune 500 firms including L'Oréal, Dow Chemicals and General Motors. A career highlight was joining the Metropolitan Opera to coach singers on the pronunciation of French lyrics in Bizet’s Carmen. Yao’s skills and intriguing story have also attracted the attention of media giants like the Asia Times, TV Japan, BC Business and The Deal.
Fluent in English, French, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, Yao is currently perfecting his German and Polish; the boy now a man no longer limited by the distinction of his voice. Yao’s dream is to offer the same freedom to others, without the exhaustive experimentation he underwent himself. The human voice box is an instrument unlike any other, and one that can unlock an entire world of opportunities for those who wish to master it.