From Yale to YouTube star

When would you ever hear a pop singer of Chinese-American descent speak Greek for a solid minute?

Probably only during a fan meet between YouTube stars and Yale University alumni Sam Tsui and Kurt Hugo Schneider and 25 students from the Yale-NUS College.

Tsui, 24, and Schneider, 25 - the US duo behind popular Michael Jackson and Glee viral video mash-ups - geeked out with their supporters last Thursday evening before their 90-minute concert at the Kallang Theatre, which attracted a crowd of 1,500.

The session - which had been set up by Yale-NUS staff and concert organiser Launch Entertainment - saw the two childhood friends, who graduated from Yale in 2011 and 2010 respectively, share stories about their school days with teenagers keen to find out how to balance studies and life.

"This feels like summer camp," Schneider said, as he and Tsui invited fans to sit in a circle on the floor of the Kallang Theatre.

"What did you study?" Yale-NUS College rector, Professor Brian McAdoo, asked at the beginning of the session.

Before Tsui, whose father is from Hong Kong, could answer, two girls spoke up: "Classical Greek!"

Prof McAdoo put up his hands in surrender. "I'll leave it to you guys."

When Yale-NUS student Valerie Pang, 19, brought up the fact that the entire class is currently studying The Odyssey by Homer, Tsui took the opportunity to show off his mastery of the subject, launching into the first 10 lines in its original Greek to applause from the students.

Schneider, who is of German-Austrian descent and majored in mathematics at Yale, also got his turn at impressing the crowd when a student asked him what he had done for his final thesis.

"This is going to get really nerdy," he said apologetically, before speaking briefly about something called Stokes' theorem.

Later, Tsui and Schneider joked about not following the standard post-Ivy League path.


"Clearly we're utilising our education," said Tsui, waving at the stage behind him, where a keyboard and drums had been set up.

But as they repeated a few times during the half-hour session, their time spent at Yale wasn't necessarily a waste, even though both have gone on to pursue full-time music careers in Los Angeles.

Tsui and Schneider, who started posting videos on YouTube in 2008, recalled going to classes all day and then working on their music after midnight.

"We'd finish as the sun came up, and then it would be hard to fall asleep," said Schneider.

"Sometimes we'd skip classes..." added Tsui cheekily.

"All right, don't listen to these guys," chimed in Prof McAdoo.

The message was clear, though: When you really want to do something, nothing is impossible.

"There's always enough time for things that are priorities for you," said Schneider.

He told LOUD: "It wasn't too long ago that we were in their position, and I remember these talks were very helpful to me when I was that age."

Ms Pang certainly felt the same way.

"The advice that was particularly insightful was when they said the hardest part was starting up their careers," she said. "The most important thing is to never give up."

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