My name is Nancy Kuo, but I was born with the name Helen Chen. My parents, both immigrants from Taiwan, first met in New York City, but chose to divorce when I was very young. As a way of breaking free from my father, my mother changed my last name. Soon after, he completely disappeared from our lives.
My mother and members of my extended family raised me. To keep my older cousin and me occupied, my mother and my auntie gave us violin lessons. My cousin was more interested in academia. I, however, dreamed of becoming a world-renowned musician.
I played throughout high school and managed to earn a full scholarship to Arizona State University, where I hoped to start my career as an orchestral violinist. But three years down the line, I changed my mind and transferred to a music school, where I studied Music Business Management and further pursued my love of playing improvisation, jazz and rock. After a six-month tour playing violin and traveling small towns on the East Coast with an off-Broadway musical, I moved to New York City. There, I worked in the music business, taught private lessons, and played shows with a Latino fusion band. Though I was keeping busy, I found myself looking for something else; it felt like I was running in circles with no clear direction.
I did some soul searching and came to the conclusion that I wanted to look for my father. I went online, paid $30 for a people search and then spent a whole day calling numbers and explaining who I was and who I was looking to find. After a day with no leads, I hit the jackpot when a woman angrily hung up on me and then called me back later that night; it turned out she was my father's second wife, and they had once lived together in Los Angeles. She told me I had two half sisters, which surprised and amazed me. Over the next year we gained each other’s trust, and I began to form relationships with her daughters and eventually my father. After several months of hour-long conversations, I made the decision to move to Los Angeles so I could grow closer to my father and my newfound extended family.
I’m now in Los Angeles and have decided to take some time to figure out my next move. I’ve also recently gone back to school to pursue a Marketing Certificate. I’m learning how to build my personal brand, which can only help me as I continue to grow my musical career.
While I’ve seen my father, we both need some time to learn to trust one another again. I’m not moving as fast any more, and have found by slowing down, I actually have time to work on my most important relationship—the one I have with myself.