Phuong Nguyen was born in Vietnam, and started to play the accordion at the age of eight at Hanoi National Conservatory. At the age of 16, Phuong left Vietnam by boat, after which he spent four years in a refugee camp in Hong Kong. With the help of dedicated supporters, he was able to come to England in 1993 to commence his studies at the Royal Academy of Music. Phuong has won many awards including the British Virtuoso Championship, Wingate Prize, Concordia Fellowship and RAM Club Prize. Since his graduation from the Royal Academy of Music, where he gained the prestigious DipRAM (Distinction), Phuong was on tour with Shared Experience Theatre Company, Pimlico Opera, Almeida Theatre, Lyric Hammersmith, and has given concerts in China, Australia, Malaysia, Japan, United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Canada, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Mexico and Vietnam. Phuong has also performed in an accordion ensemble with both the BBC Symphony and BBC Concert Orchestra, the Halle Orchestra (in Prokofiev’s Cantata for the 20th anniversary of the October Revolution at the Royal Albert Hall in London and the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester), the SWF Symphony Orchestra of Baden-Baden at the Proms, Edinburgh and Salzburg Festivals, and most recently at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Royal Festival Hall in London. He has travelled internationally with the Concordia Theatre Company and has received travel scholarships from the Concordia Foundation. Most recently, he was invited to Vietnam to give a memorable concert and workshop at the Hanoi Conservatoire. He is also a teacher and a member of the musical ensemble “Machaca”.
Yi Yao started the piano and the accordion aged five. She has been an active performer since childhood, playing a solo recital at the age of twelve at the Beijing Concert Hall. In 2003, Yi graduated from the Royal Academy of Music of London, after five years study with Owen Murray, focusing on the piano and the accordion. Yi has toured extensively, playing in Sweden, Malaysia, Italy, Thailand, Egypt and China. She has made several recordings, and was featured on the Chinese Central Television Corporation. She has won numerous prizes in Chinese and international competitions on both the piano and the accordion, including first prize at the Accordion Festival in Scotland and the Anglo-Czech Competition, resulting in a performance in Prague. She has played at the London Accordion Festival and with the Halle Orchestra at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, and her recording with Naxos with conductor Jose Serebrier was nominated twice for the Grammys in 2004. Recently, Yi has appeared as concerto soloist in Cambridge, in a series of concerts in China with her six-piece chamber group Panoply, as well as in performances playing in Bangkok. She has performed on cruises and is currently involved in organising an upcoming concert tour of China for her group Panoply. Yi is also a visiting professor at the Guang Zhou Zhao Qing University, of which her duties include giving lectures and masterclasses for two thousand students.