PULLMAN, Wash. — Classical music composer Chen Yi will attend the 14th annual New Music Festival at Washington State University in Pullman set for Feb. 4-6.
Dr. Chen is the current Ives Living Award winner. Presented by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Ives award is worth $225,000 making it one of the largest prizes available exclusively to composers. The Ives Living Award stipulates the winner must not have employment other than composition for three years. For that reason, Ms. Chen’s husband, composer Zhou Long, has assumed her duties at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City where she is the Cravens/Millsap/Missouri Distinguished Professor.
Born in China in 1953, Ms. Chen survived hard labor and separation from her family during the Cultural Revolution. When she was 17, she returned to her home city of Guangzhou and served as concertmaster and composer with the Beijing Opera Troupe. That, she says, is when her fascination with traditional Chinese music and Western classical music theory began. She went on to become the first woman in China to receive a master’s degree in composition and eventually immigrated to the United States and received her Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Columbia University.
“She is so successful, in part,” said Charles Argersinger, professor at the WSU School of Music and Theatre Arts, “because her music parallels her inner spirit. Her music is very much like her personality.”
Established by Argersinger, the New Music Festival is a celebration of contemporary classical music. Over the course of three days, the festival features new, original compositions by students, faculty and a visiting composer. The first day of the festival, Feb. 4, WSU students will present their work in a concert beginning at 11:10 a.m. in Kimbrough Concert Hall. At 8 p.m., faculty members will perform new music compositions. On Feb. 5, Ms. Chen will meet privately with students in the school and attend a rehearsal of her music. The composer will attend a faculty performance of her compositions at 8 p.m. Feb. 6 in Kimbrough Concert Hall.
Ms. Chen has been commissioned to compose for the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Women’s Philharmonic, the Central Philharmonic of China, Seattle Symphony, New York New Music Consort, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the Music From China, Chanticleer, Yehudi Menuhin, Yo-Yo Ma, Evelyn Glennie and the Singapore Symphony, the Rascher Saxophone Quartet and Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, the Ying Quartet, San Francisco Citywinds, San Francisco Girls’ Chorus, Ithaca College, Carnegie Hall, American Guild of Organists and the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra.
Her compositions have also been performed by the BBC Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Halle Orchestra, New York Philharmonic and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; Iceland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Long Beach, Duluth, Honolulu, South Bend symphonies; China National and Shanghai Symphonies, NHK, Japan and Tokyo Philharmonic orchestras; Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Washington, D.C., Contemporary Music Forum, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, California EAR Unit, CalArts New Century Players, Ensemble 2e2m, Boston Musica Viva, Network for New Music, and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center among many others.
In addition to composing, Ms. Chen is also an accomplished violinist and pianist and serves on the board of directors of Meet the Composer, on the composer advisory board of the American Composers Orchestra and the International Alliance for Women in Music.
All New Music Festival performances are free and open to the public.