Senior Spotlight: Richard Yan
As we have just begun our second semester of an extremely unconventional year, I have reached out to senior Richard Yan to hear about his feelings towards wrapping up high school and what he’s looking forward to in life after Edgemont.
To start off, can you tell a little bit about yourself and give a quick history of your time at Edgemont and elsewhere?
Hi everyone! I’m Richard, I’ve been at Edgemont for over 10 years now. I moved to Scarsdale from Hong Kong when I was 7, and went to Seely Place starting in second grade. At EHS, I sing in the Chamber Choir, play guitar for the Jazz Ensemble, and act in the musicals every spring. Outside of school, I make videos on my YouTube channel “ShredderFTW”, play piano, and direct short films from time to time. I also have a five-year-old sister, Raylin, who’s a lot smarter than me and is currently in Mrs. Davidson’s kindergarten class. I’m a kid who’s had a lot of luck and a lot of awesome people in his life, and really loves making people laugh through his videos and stories.
I know you have been involved in Youtube with your own channel for some time now. Can you tell us a little bit about how and when you first started and what your channel is all about?
I started my channel in sixth grade, when I was 11. I’d been watching YouTube for many years at that point, and was fascinated by the vast communities that formed around these YouTube channels with millions of followers. To me, I saw YouTube as a chance to share my voice with other kids like me, and make people laugh like my favorite YouTubers did for me growing up.
My first video was literally just me sitting on the couch with my Dad’s iPad, making super awkward commentary to myself as I played a superhero game called Injustice. I didn’t have huge expectations for the channel-- I was just doing something that made me happy. But when my videos started to gain attention, I found myself with hundreds of kids from all over the world watching me play video games, and a community beginning to form around my channel. My viewers shared my interests and passions, and I always made sure to respond to their comments every day-- I loved my audience and always wanted to make myself feel available to them. I also noticed from my YouTube analytics that a lot of my viewers were Asian-American kids, and I hoped to inspire them to “break the Asian norm” a little and pursue their own artistic dreams through my videos.
Since I started my channel over 5 years ago, I’ve expanded my channel’s content to include music, vlogs, short films, and reaction videos alongside gaming commentaries. My channel has always been a reflection of myself and my interests, and, as I’ve developed new passions over the years, the content of my videos has changed and grown with me. My values, however, remain unchanged: I still do my best to respond to comments and interact with my audience as much as I can, and hopefully inspire other kids to start their own YouTube journeys through the content I make.
What is it like having a channel as successful as yours? How often do you upload videos, how long do you spend editing videos, and how often do you actually record for your videos?
YouTube has undoubtedly changed my life in more ways than I can count. My channel has allowed me to break out of my shell and become more social, and interacting with my community always brings me immeasurable joy. I’ve met a lot of incredible people from online interactions, conventions, meetups… it’s been a wild ride and I’ve loved every moment of it. I think the most important thing for me right now is to never lose sight of myself in the midst of all this craziness on YouTube-- it’s a lot of numbers, and it can get to your head if you’re not careful. I try to be aware of that as my community continues to grow. I am fully aware that I’m very lucky to be where I am now, that’s for sure!
I record videos on weekends, when I have a good chunk of time to sit down and “get into the zone” for recording. I usually pre-record multiple videos in one session, which can last up to three hours at a time. Editing is the real kicker: for a single 10 minute video, it can range anywhere from an hour to 8 hours of editing. I usually split editing into multiple sessions, mostly because I’d probably go insane if I didn’t. My upload schedule is notoriously unpredictable: this past year, I’ve had periods where I’ve uploaded videos every day, and periods where I didn’t upload for weeks. It all depends on my schedule, and how busy schoolwork and my extracurriculars are at the time.
What is it like balancing school and Youtube, and what has that experience of having to handle both taught you?
Well, it can be challenging at times. Uploading every day is impossible unless I fail my classes, and studying for every test is impossible unless I ditch YouTube. So it’s a delicate balance, really. I do just enough to scrape by and get good grades-- and in turn, I repurpose the extra study time for extracurriculars like YouTube, and try to get weekly videos out. I also try to be aware of my procrastination habits whenever possible and use my time efficiently throughout the day. Balancing the two has really shown me the value of time management and not leaving everything until the last minute.
To focus more on Edgemont now, what have you most enjoyed in high school? What has been your favorite year? Favorite memory?
Honestly, 50 years from now, the thing I’ll remember most vividly about Edgemont is the community. My friends, my mentors-- they’re the ones who’ve shaped my high school experience, and have given me advice and companionship when I needed it most. Being a part of the Chamber Choir, studying under Mr. C and Mrs. Morse, and performing on opening nights with my castmates will be the memories I’ll hold on to the longest as I move on from EHS.
I’d say my favorite year was probably 10th grade. It was a year of personal growth for me, and I overcame many obstacles in both my life at home and at school (AP Bio, to be specific). My favorite memory is undoubtedly the Chamber Choir’s trip to the last Berklee Jazz Festival in January 2019; the ensemble was brimming with talent, and we absolutely crushed it at the festival, taking home first place for Edgemont for the 6th consecutive year. It was a truly unforgettable weekend, and I still miss the seniors from that year greatly.
I know you’ve also been involved in the school plays, how has that impacted your high school experience?
Theater is great. I highly recommend it to everyone at Edgemont, even if you only do it for one year. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of the stage or the excitement of opening night, and the friendships you’ll make through rehearsals and performances will last throughout your years in high school. At its core, theater is really just a chance to take yourself less seriously. So what if you “look weird”-- we all do at some point, and you’ll be having more fun than the person judging you anyway. For me, theater has been extremely important in helping me let go of what others think, and just be myself and tell stories unapologetically.
What are you looking forward to in the latter half of your senior year?
Having more time to develop my interests and extracurriculars. College applications stopped me from doing music and YouTube almost entirely, and I’m looking forward to re-indulging my creative side with all that tediousness behind me. Other than that, I just really want to make some good final memories with my friends and mentors here before I leave Edgemont.
Obviously throughout this pandemic we have all learned a lot about ourselves. What have you discovered about yourself this past year? Any new hobbies?
I’ve learned that cooking is super fun. It’s a very creative activity, and in many ways is like video editing: you get your raw ingredients laid out in front of you, and your final product is entirely up to what you do with them. So this past year, I’ve learned how to make a killer steak and salmon, as well as bake some really delicious cookies. Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to make less of a mess in the kitchen yet, but I’m working on it.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I recently found out that I can actually draw decently well. That is, if I have a reference picture. I’m definitely not ready for original artwork at the moment.
What are you looking forward to in your future, college and beyond?
I really love meeting new people and working with others on creative projects, so I hope to continue making YouTube videos and music with other artists and creators in the future. I’m a big fan of going with the flow, and don’t really have a super rigid structure for how I want my college years or years beyond that to go-- but I do know that I love to travel, and will definitely be exploring new countries and cultures whenever I can. I’m looking forward to not knowing what adventures the next day will hold, and discovering more of the world through traveling abroad during my college years.
What are you interested in studying?
I’ve applied to a lot of film, drama, and music programs, and am planning to pursue a creative major alongside a business or economics major wherever I end up going. I want my college experience to prepare me for a career in entertainment, and knowledge of business principles can be incredibly valuable as I navigate the entertainment industry.
Are you planning to continue Youtube and/or social media next year at college?
Absolutely! How well it’ll fit into my schedule is another story, but I’ll definitely try to keep up my channel and make videos about my life at college whenever possible.
How do you feel about leaving for college and what are you going to miss about being home?
I’ll miss the sense of security at home. All my life, I’ve always had my room and my family to fall back on after a tough day. After I leave for college, I’ll have to deal with a lot of problems without that safety net, and that’s what intimidates me the most. But overall, I’m excited to go out into the world and live on my own-- I can’t wait to meet new people at college, and am looking forward to the freedom I’ll have.
Finally, is there any message you want to share with younger EHS students? Advice, words of wisdom, etc.?
Run your own race, and run at your own pace. Constantly comparing yourself to others is one of the worst things you can do as you grow and develop, and social media has only made it easier. Realize that everyone has issues of their own, and focus on achieving your own goals rather than looking around and feeling “inadequate”. At the same time, look for opportunities to collaborate and learn from those with more experience. Running your own race does not mean shutting out advice and guidance-- it just means not slowing down because you think others are overtaking you.
Lastly, it is so important to cherish your time at Edgemont. When the seniors told me this very same advice back when I was in 9th grade, I didn’t take it to heart enough. Time flies. I know your Chem class feels like hours right now, and your English class never seems to end on time, but trust me when I say that you’ll look back in your senior year and wonder where all the time went. You only get to live through high school once, so please make sure you make the most of your time at Edgemont and thank the people who’ve made your experience special thus far.
It’s been a pleasure to tell you about my experiences as an Edgemont senior. Thanks for your time, and I hope it was a good read!