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Cellist Tina Guo has it all. She’s beautiful, smart, funny, talented and in demand.
The Sherman Oaks resident has played with the San Diego Symphony and State of Mexico Symphony and such artists as Al Di Meola, Foo Fighters and Joe Bonamassa, as well as on television and film scores, commercials and the soundtracks of video games. Most recently, she has been touring with Hans Zimmer and will be performing with him at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles April 14 and at Coachella April 16 and 23.
On Feb. 10, Guo is releasing her new album, “Game On!” (Sony Masterworks), which features covers of music from popular and classic video games, such as The Legend of Zelda, World of Warcraft, Super Mario Bros., Pokemon and Halo.
Fated to play cello
Born in China, Guo moved to the United States with her parents when she was 5; her path to music was already set.
“My father is a cellist and my mother is a violinist and they’re both music teachers, so I was basically forced into the family trade,” Guo said. “I really didn’t have a choice. Growing up it was difficult because I was forced to practice about eight hours a day.”
Guo admits that she was “an angry child” because practicing, training and competitions took over her life. But looking back, she understands how her parents, who grew up in the shadow of communism, were obsessed with doing everything they could to ensure her future. This also meant that she wasn’t allowed to use the internet nor listen to “unacceptable” music.
Guo’s introduction to rock came during seventh grade when she was living in San Diego.
“The very first album that I heard … outside of some radio and classical music at home was Marilyn Manson’s ‘Antichrist Superstar,’ which was the extreme opposite,” Guo said.
Guo would continue to sneak listens to other bands, such as Daft Punk and Guns N’ Roses, but when she began attending USC in 2004 and had access to the internet, her world was instantly wide open.
“It was this sudden freedom,” she said. “I went crazy just going on YouTube and listening to different types of music, and I started experimenting with the electric cello. I had this little dream, I want to play lead guitar, I want to be a rocker. That’s when I started experimenting, watching YouTube videos and trying to emulate the sound, the tone, the style of different guitar players. It’s a very different mind-set and approach from classical music.”
Leaving college to play
Guo dropped out of college during her junior year, as her grades were lagging because she was busy playing music. When she wasn’t on a weeklong concert engagement, Guo was playing with bands at Hollywood clubs. And her parents were mad. Guo had a scholarship for tuition, and they wanted her to have a “safe” job with an orchestra, but it wasn’t for her.
“I want to have my own say on how I play my music, make mistakes if I have to make mistakes, try different things,” Guo said.
In 2011 her parents finally relaxed when she joined Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour.” It gave her health insurance, benefits and a weekly salary.
“Now they are very supportive,” Guo said. “They don’t quite know what I’m doing, but they’re very supportive and I’m grateful for that.”
Video game link
Guo had already played on many video game scores and had been performing at gaming and comic conventions and other gaming-related events when she decided to record an album of video game music.
“I thought I should totally do game music,” Guo said. “I was planning on doing an album when I came back from tour with Hans Zimmer.”
The first show on Zimmer’s tour she did was at Wembley Stadium in London. A Sony representative who caught the concert approached Guo asking if she would be interested in a record deal and doing a game music album.
“We compared the notes,” Guo said. “I already had a list of the games I wanted to do and except for two titles they were exactly the same lists, so I took that as a nice positive affirmation that this was the right way to go.”
With a calendar full of bookings, Guo is looking to spring 2018 to tour with her band in support of “Game On!” She plans to perform at gaming conventions and traditional venues.
For more information on Tina Guo, go to www.Tinaguo.com.