Nicholas Cerny, Contributing Photographer

TwoSet Violin, a classical comedy violin duo that gained popularity through their viral YouTube videos, performed for and answered questions from a packed audience in Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall Thursday evening.

The event marked the second time the duo, composed of violinists Eddy Chen and Brett Yang, has visited Yale. With 4.12 million subscribers and 1.40 billion views on YouTube, TwoSet Violin is now one of the most-watched classical music related channels on YouTube. Their visit at Yale marked the first stop on their 2023 world tour — they arrived in New Haven from Australia mere hours before the event.

“They’re really the face of the younger classical musician community, and over the past ten years, they’ve revolutionized the image of classical music for a lot of students and younger people,” said Atticus Margulis-Ohnuma ’25, president of the Yale Symphony Orchestra.

The duo first visited Yale in the fall of 2018 when Mary Lui, Head of Timothy Dwight College, invited them after seeing one of their videos pop up in her YouTube feed. As a former orchestral musician herself, Lui said she thought their videos were “one of the funniest things [she had] ever seen.” 

Then, Lui decided she would host the pair in her house, which has a 50-person capacity, as she expected a modest showing. Worried there would not be enough of an audience, she tried reaching out to local neighborhood music schools to bring in more people. Her suspicions were wrong.

“I thought I would just have a small crowd of classical music enthusiasts, but I ended up having my house crammed full with hundreds of students,” she said. “I had no idea they were actually really famous.”

So when the Australian duo said they were doing a world tour and were interested in visiting Yale again this year, Lui decided to host the event in Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall. Free tickets sold out hours after opening up to all students.

On Thursday night, Chen and Yang were greeted onto stage by thunderous applause before performing an arrangement for two violins of Handel-Halvorsen’s famous Passacaglia — a famous virtuoso piece usually done with a violin and a cello — in G minor.

Lui then joined them for a brief interview before opening the conversation up to a Q&A with attendees. The duo discussed performance nerves and their experience with classical music while bantering with students about their favorite instruments.

Estelle Balsirow ’26, an oboist in the Yale Symphony Orchestra, asked Chen and Yang for their opinion on oboists, leading into a conversation in which Chen and Yang began asking Balsirow about her own journey to becoming an oboist.

“TwoSet helps me balance the world of classical music and our modern times with humor and charm,” said Balsirow. “Talking to them made me realize that they are just as funny and sweet in person as they are on the screen.”

Lui said she is constantly looking for ways to support Yale’s classical music community. 

Last year, she invited Grammy-winning violinist Hilary Hahn to the University last year as a Timothy Dwight Chubb Fellow, 

“In a [classical music] environment that can be so competitive and cutthroat, the joy of playing can sometimes escape students — [students] are always vulnerable putting themselves out there,” Lui said. “To play at a high level, one has to put in a lot of work and dedication. But that doesn’t mean music is only for people who can do that. Music is for everyone, and we can all take enjoyment from it somehow.”

Chen and Yang both attended conservatory and worked as professional classical violinists in the Sydney Symphony and Queensland Symphony Orchestras, respectively. They resigned their positions in 2016 to host live classical-comedy performances, soon becoming the first-ever crowdfunded classical world tour. They have collaborated with some of the biggest names in classical music, including Hahn, Lang Lang, James Ehnes and Janine Jansen.

Their videos focus on life as classical musicians at conservatory and poke fun at what Ella Saputra ’27, a violinist and attendee at the event, said is a field often considered to be  “boring and stuffy.” 

“TwoSet makes the world of classical music accessible to everyone, even non-musicians — they really show that classical music can be something that’s fun and enjoyable, no matter your musical background or experience,” Saputra said.

To Lui, this element of accessibility that the duo exudes is how she chooses who she invites to Yale. Because Chen and Yang have gone through serious classical training themselves, their humor is not only relatable to musicians, but it also gets to the roots of many of the “power dynamics” that classical music often suffers from, she said.

Lui finds their story “incredibly important” for the music community at Yale. She describes them as two successful classical musicians who could have stayed in the “symphony route” but wanted to do more — they wanted classical music to reach more people and to be “something fun.” 

“Especially here at Yale, where so many students came out of a [classical music] background of dedication and hard work, students can often feel like something is missing or gone when they don’t do that anymore,” said Lui. “And it’s important to realize that no, the music really hasn’t left you. The grind has left you, but the music hasn’t.”

TwoSet Violin’s next stops include sold-out shows in some of the United States’ most prestigious venues, including the David Geffen Hall in New York and Symphony Hall in Boston.

Tobias Liu covers the School of Music and the undergraduate music scene. He is a sophomore in Trumbull College from Johns Creek, Georgia majoring in Economics and Molecular Biology.