As a Distinguished Professor at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, a prolific composer, and recipient of the Ives Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Dr. CHEN YI* blends Chinese and Western traditions, transcending cultural and musical boundaries. Her music has reached a wide range of audiences and inspired peoples of different cultural backgrounds throughout the world. She holds a BA and MA in music composition from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, and a DMA from Columbia University in New York City, studying composition with Wu Zuqiang, Chou Wen-chung and Mario Davidovsky. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2019.
Dr. Chen’s music has been performed and commissioned by the world’s leading musicians and ensembles, including Yehudi Menuhin, Yo-Yo Ma, Evelyn Glennie, the Cleveland Orchestra, the BBC, Seattle, Pacific, Kansas City, and Singapore Symphonies, the Brooklyn, NY, and LA Philharmonic, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Her music has also been recorded on many labels, including Bis, New Albion, CRI, Teldec, Telarc, Albany, New World, Naxos, Quartz, Delos, Angel, Bridge, Nimbus, KIC, and China Record Company.
Dr. Chen has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation (1996) and the National Endowment for the Arts (1994), as well as the Lieberson Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1996). Other honors include first prize from the Chinese National Composition Contest (85), Lili Boulanger Award (93), NYU Sorel Medal Award (96), CalArts / Alpert Award (97), UT Eddie Medora King Composition Prize (99), ASCAP Concert Music Award (01), Elise Stoeger Award (02) from Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Friendship Ambassador Award from Edgar Snow Fund (02), UMKC Kauffman Award in Artistry/Scholarship (06, 19) and in Faculty Service (12), and Honorary Doctorates from Lawrence University in WI (02), Baldwin-Wallace College in OH (08), University of Portland in OR (09), the New School University in NYC (10), and the University of Hartford in CT (16).
Recent premieres include Plum Blossom for piano solo at the Fifth Hong Kong International Piano Competition by 15 semi-finalists at HK City Hall Concert Hall in October 2019, a three-movement symphonic work Introduction, Andante, and Allegro (co-commissioned by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra directed by Ludovic Morlot and Los Angeles Philharmonic directed by Gustavo Dudamel) by the SSO at Benaroya Hall in Seattle on 2/6/2019; Fire for 12 players (commissioned by Chicago Center for Contemporary Music) by Grossman Ensemble at Logan Center Performance Hall in University of Chicago on 3/15/2019; a symphonic work Pearle River Overture (commissioned by Guangzhou Symphony) in Xinghai Concert Hall in Guangzhou, China on 11/22/2018; Four Spirits for piano and orchestra, commissioned by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and premiered at the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, China on November 18, 2016 and at the Memorial Hall in the Carolina Performing Arts (CPA), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on December 8, 2016 by the China Philharmonic Orchestra, with piano soloist Clara Yang, conducted by Huang Yi and Yu Long respectively; Southern Scenes for flute, pipa, and orchestra (with Barlow Commission Award) premiered by the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra in Honolulu (with soloists Linda Chatterton and Gao Hong, conducted by JoAnn Falletta) on Jan. 7, 2018; Totem Poles for organ solo commissioned and premiered at the American Guild of Organists national conference in Kansas City by Prof. James Higdon on July 3, 2018; Happy Tune for violin and viola commissioned and premiered at the Great Lake Chamber Music Festival 25th anniversary concert by Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu and Kim Kashkashian on June 16, 2018; Feng II and Suite from China West for saxophone ensembles premiered at the 18th World Saxophone Congress in Zagreb, Croatia on July 12, 2018; Ge Xu for orchestra by New Jersey Symphony and LA Philharmonic conducted by Zhang Xian; Chinese Folk Dance Suite for violin and orchestra performed on Guangzhou Symphony Youth Orchestra European tour (solo by Gao Can and conducted by Jing Huan) in Lyon, Prague, and at Musica Riva Festival in Italy; Ballad, Dance, and Fantasy for cello and orchestra by the China National Symphony at the 2018 Beijing Modern Music Festival and ISCM World Music Days (solo by Qin Li-wei and conducted by Yongyan Hu) at the CNCPA in Beijing.
A strong advocate of new music, American composers, Asian composers, and women in music, Dr. Chen Yi has served on the advisory or educational board of the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Chamber Music America, Meet The Composer, the American Music Center, New Music USA, the American Composers Orchestra, the League of Composers/ISCM, the International Alliance of Women in Music, and the Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy. She has supported many composers, conductors, musicians (including dozens of excellent performers on Chinese traditional instruments), music educators and students through her tireless work over the past three decades.
Prof. Chen was appointed to the prestigious Cheungkong Scholar Visiting Professor at the Central Conservatory by the China Education Ministry in 2006 where she was instrumental in establishing the first Beijing International Composition Workshop, and the Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Tianjin Conservatory in 2012. Through her professorship in the Conservatory of Music and Dance, University of Missouri-Kansas City and Peabody Conservatory, John Hopkins University since 1996, as well as composition lectures and workshops, judging composition competitions, residences in new music festivals, performing arts organizations, universities, colleges, middle/high schools, and primary schools throughout the States and China, Prof. Chen has made significant contribution to the music education field. Many of her composition students have been recognized around the world with national and international composition awards and professional positions.
Dr. Chen Yi is a cultural ambassador who has introduced hundreds of new music compositions and a large number of musicians from the East and the West to music and education exchange programs in the US, Germany, the UK, and Asian countries, particularly in recent years through programs of the Beijing Modern Music Festival, the Beijing International Composition Workshop (BICW), the Shanghai Spring Festival, the Tianjin May Festival, the China-ASEAN Music Week, the symphony orchestras throughout China and some other Asian countries, and the Thailand International Composition Festival, among many others. She believes that music is a universal language; improving understanding between peoples of different cultural backgrounds and helping to bring peace in the world.
* Chen is family name, Yi is personal name. Chen Yi can be referred to as Dr. Chen, Prof. Chen, Ms. Chen, or Chen Yi, but not Dr. Yi, Prof. Yi, or Ms. Yi.