Audrey Yin

Year of Graduation: 
Audrey Yin

"Exeter has given me the opportunity to develop into myself. It’s made me a more secure person.”

Music. Writing. Visual art. Activism. Visit Audrey Yin’s homepage online and you’ll find these five words boldly set in all caps, clickable links of her life. 

“Yeah, that is totally me,” says the four-year senior. A brief scan of her accomplishments — vocalist in Concert Choir, first-chair oboist in Symphony Orchestra, Scholastic Art & Writing Awards winner, co-founder of VOCPEA — bears that out. But what’s not represented is how all of her interests interconnect. What is the wellspring of her creativity? Turns out, it’s empathy — and Exeter.

“Audrey’s remarkable artistry is born from the most astonishing depth of compassion,” says her longtime mentor, Music Department Chair Kris Johnson. “She makes art to express her own humanity and to understand others.”

“Music has always been the biggest part of my identity,” Yin says. “It’s a safe haven for me. That tied with Mr. Johnson, who showed me that singing in choir is a very good chance for unity, because apparently our heartbeats line up when we sing. ... When you’re perfectly in tune with each other, you can just feel the vibrations.”

The confidence and community Yin gained in Concert Choir inspired her to explore her musical self. She spent hours in the Class of 1945 Library’s listening room, choosing albums by jacket cover, expanding her musical oeuvre. 

“I just wanted to explore everything,” she says. “Then I really got into recording and producing and finding my own [musical] style. Exeter has given me the opportunity to develop into myself. It’s made me a more secure person. Now, I’m just doing my thing.” This year, Yin wrote, performed and released her debut solo album, Heartworm. (Take a listen on her YouTube channel or any streaming platform.) 

Yin has come a long way since her prep year when she took her first hesitant steps on campus during the Academy’s International Student Orientation Program. “It is one of the best parts of Exeter because it immediately gave me this community to turn to,” says Yin, who was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Shanghai and New York City. The friendships she formed then became an important support group, she says, especially following a racist incident she experienced walking through the town of Exeter. “That memory served as a motivation for me to do a lot of the activism work that I do now,” she says. “To not be complicit and try my best to do something positive.”

The summer after her prep year, Yin did just that, and organized the online support platform HapPEA (pronounced “happy”), where students can publish stories centering on social justice issues and understand, Yin says, that “they are not alone.” 

In her upper year, when she learned that the pandemic disproportionately affected Black, Indigenous and people of color, she co-developed Voices of Color at PEA, or VOCPEA, an Instagram platform for students of color to share how COVID-19 has impacted their lives. “Struggle is something that we all have in common,” she says. “We forget about that when we leave the table sometimes, like how to have just basic compassion. It’s not just a classroom thing that students should do to impress their teacher. Compassion should be a lifelong sentiment.”

Yin also performed in and helped organize a virtual fundraising concert — in collaboration with Exeter’s annual UnSilenced event — that raised more than $15,000 for organizations related to Black Lives Matter.

“Audrey’s example as a creative spirit lifts and energizes every space she enters,” Johnson says. “Her soulful contributions to Exeter are beyond measure.”

In May, Yin will find out if she will be named a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts for the stop-motion short film she submitted to the National YoungArts Foundation. “I’ve always had this feeling for film,” she says, “but I’m only starting to develop my aesthetic as a director.”

Heading off to Cornell in the fall, Yin plans to pursue a double major in art history and performing and media arts — and to continue promoting change. “Even though I lived in China, I was very influenced by Western TV shows and they didn’t have a lot of kids or characters who looked like me,” she says. “I want to do something productive with my movies, create movies that show intersections of people and characters that are not just tokenized. ... If art is going to be such a crucial part of my life, I might as well do something good with it.”

— Jennifer Wagner

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the spring 2021 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.