Get to know #GrandEncounters artist (and APA Classical Fellow) Sean Chen…

1. Where did you grow up?

Moved to California from Florida when I was 4, and was in Oak Park for a majority of my primary schooling.

2. Are you from a musical family?

My grandpa on my dad’s side is a musician, playing various traditional Chinese instruments, and running a community Chinese orchestra in Taiwan. My dad plays guitar, and my brothers both studied violin and piano. I guess we are a musical family, but no one plays professionally besides me.

3. What attracted you to the piano/can you play any other instruments?

I love the piano for its ability to play counterpoint and harmony equally well. Also it is like a mini orchestra at your control. I also studied the violin (and you don’t want to hear me play that) and I fool around with the guitar sometimes (having watched my dad play from a young age).

4. What age were you when you started to play the piano?

I think my first official lessons were around 4 or 5.

Old Photos8134 - black and white

5. How do you deal with the pressure and being on stage?

Being on stage is mostly fine, it’s the nerves beforehand that are more annoying, and the worst is waiting for results at competitions. Once on stage, I try to focus on the music.

Gala Finals

6. What is an ordinary day like for you?

My days are very varied. I spend a lot of time on the computer and at the piano. I typically walk to school to practice (at Yale). I sleep late and wake up late – I naturally wake up after 10 hours. I like eating, and walking around seeing different things. There’s almost always some type of music going through my head.

7. Any thoughts on classical music?

I love classical music! Also, the way music is defined as “classical” is interesting – “classics” are examples of certain genre that exemplify that genre. Of course “classical,” as it applies to different fields such as literature, music, or physics mean completely different than “classic.” But I like to think of classical music as music that stands the test of time, not necessarily “art-music” as compared to popular music. Which leads in to:

8. What type of music do you listen to?

I listen to different kinds of music, some because I just enjoy it at a very basic level, like Taiwanese or Japanese pop, other because of nostalgia, like video game music, and finally the rest because I find them interesting and unique, like classical music or even oldies. In a way, being a musician makes listening to music more tiring – my brain generally ends up analyzing the music. It’s even much more than just “what key is it in” and “what meter is it in.” I very quickly hear the harmonic structure, the phrasing, the shape and contour of the melody, pick out parallel fifths, etc. And so sometimes, it takes effort to just stop thinking and only to listen.

9. Favorite composer or piece?

Not a fair question. I can actually sort of say what composers I enjoy less than others, and they would be Mahler and Shostakovich. That isn’t to say that they aren’t great composers and haven’t written great music, or that there aren’t pieces of theirs that I like, but in general, I would listen to other composers if given a choice.

10. Favorite restaurant(s)?

All of them are in NY – couple of Japanese restaurants Sakagura and Sushi Yasaka, a French restaurant La Boite en Bois, Italian restaurants Bistro Milano and Pomodoro, Cafe Glechik in Brighton Beach, and many others.

11. Favorite movie(s)?

Not really, although Pixar‘s Up has the ability to make a grown man cry in the first 5 minutes of the film with nary a word.


12. Favorite TV show(s)?

I recently watched the first two seasons of BBC‘s Sherlock, and can’t wait for the third season to come out.

13. Favorite season?

Well, when you grow up in California, you don’t really see seasons. After moving to the East Coast for school, I can say that I like all the seasons – they each have their own personality. Though summer on the East Coast is a bit humid for my taste.

14. Interesting fact about yourself?

I turned down Harvard and MIT to pursue music at Juilliard.


Sean Chen, 2013 DeHaan Classical Fellow of the American Pianists Association




Author: americanpianistsassociation

The mission of the American Pianists Association is to discover, promote and advance the careers of young, American jazz and classical pianists.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s