Jenny Q Chai Piano Hailed as a "brilliant and fearless young performer," Jenny Q Chai is an active pianist specializing in contemporary music. Recipient of the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust's 2011 Pianist/Composer Commissioning Project, first prize winner of the Keys to the Future Contemporary Solo Piano Festival, and recipient of the DAAD Arts and Performance award in 2010, Chai has premiered, most notably, Life Sketches by Nils Vigeland, Exercise in Deism by John Slover, Intimate Rejection by Ashley Fu-Tsun Wang, and Blue Inscription by Scott Wollschleger. Chai has also premiered "Marriage (Mile 58) Section F" from The Road by Frederick Rzewski in Ghent, Belgium, where she was given the Logos Award for the best performance of 2008. Recently, Chai had the privilege of introducing the concept of prepared piano to a Chinese audience, with the world premiere of Mallet Dance by John Slover, in Shanghai Concert Hall.
Chai began playing the piano, under her mother's tutelage, at the age of three. By age six, she was selected out of thousands of applicants by the Shanghai Music Conservatory to be one of eleven piano students and studied under Prof. Chao Zhijue, Prof. Wang Qinghua, Prof. Wang Jianzhong, Prof. Wu Zijie and Prof. Zhang Yuqing. At the tender age of 13, Chai began studies at the small, prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, accompanied by her father, sculptor Chai Biao. There Chai spent seven years studying with the prolific Classical pianist and conductor Seymour Lipkin.
Four years later, Chai began to question whether music was the path for her. Two dark years followed, in which Chai avoided the piano. Then, by chance, the summer before her final year at Curtis, Chai heard a recording of Chopin playing in the background at a Shanghai tea house. "The tears gushed out of my eyes like an unexpected summer storm," says Chai. "That was the moment that I knew I wanted to be a pianist." Returning to Curtis, Chai "practiced like crazy," and graduated a more mature and vibrant artist.
Receiving a full scholarship, Chai decided to study for her Master's degree at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City under the world-renowned pedagogue Solomon Mikowsky. Yearning for something beyond the standard classical repertoire, Chai found a proficient mentor in Nils Vigeland, chair of composition at MSM, under whose support Chai's long-held affinity for contemporary music was able to bloom. For her doctorate studies (also at MSM), Chai made the bold decision to play only contemporary music, under the guidance of contemporary pianist Anthony de Mare.
As part of her doctorate program, Chai moved abroad to Germany, where she worked with the great contemporary pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, and performed in Ensemble 20/21, directed by David Smeyers, as well as the group Musikfabrik. In what is already an illustrious career, Chai has been covered on major medium throughout the U.S., China, and Europe, including Time Out New York, Shanghai Culture, and Cologne Daily News, and her performances of contemporary music have been broadcast in Italy, Germany, China, and the U.S. Her talents have been showcased on recordings with Ensemble 20/21 on the Deutschlandfunk label (performing music by Hanns Eisler) and as solo pianist/vocalist on ArpaViva's New York Love Songs.
For Chai, near-total immersion in the contemporary music world has only enhanced her appreciation of the classical repertoire. "I feel a sense of contentment programming creative concerts, mixing and matching old and new works, so as to highlight what is most special in each piece. After all, nothing comes from nothing, and new music is very much connected to that which came before."
Now splitting her time between the U.S. and China, Chai co-directs the New York City-based contemporary music organization Ear to Mind, and is founder of FaceArt Music Association in Shanghai. In an Ear to Mind performance this April, Chai will premiere three new works, including Five Pieces (for Jenny Q Chai) by Nils Vigeland.
Etudes No.3 "pour les quartes"
Etudes Book I No. 2 "Cordes à vide"
Etudes No.6 "pour les huit doigts"
Etudes Book I No. 1 "Désordre"
The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs
Prayer (China premiere, written for Jenny Q Chai)
Current (China premiere, written for Jenny Q Chai)
Ashley Fu-Tsun Wang
Parallel Lines (China premiere, written for Jenny Q Chai)
Quiet talk with the Devil and Les Adieux from Jatékok