“Chen is diminutive but powerful, with an exacting style of conducting that commands attention”
San Francisco Classical Voice
“Sometimes being a guest conductor can ignite a fire in an orchestra and there was no doubt that Ms. Chen lit one here; she infused a new energy into the orchestra’s performance. … The Allegretto [of Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 24 in C minor] was bold; Chen and Lang were in lockstep in extracting the beauty, creativity and energy of the finale.”
“Chen led a superbly taut and propulsive account of the Beethoven piece. The scherzo, taken at breakneck speed without missing a step, proved especially impressive, but the entire symphony was done with a high level of drama.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“The performance indeed offered a captivating and inspired interpretation.”
“But above all, the conductor Mei-Ann Chen should have all the honor of the overwhelming impression “Terra nostra” made. Along with a slightly reduced, yet sounding HSO, she took the audience by storm. It was a very long time since such a newly written work in this format was received with such great enthusiasm.”
Helsingborgs Dagblad (translated)
Praised for her dynamic, passionate conducting style, Taiwanese American conductor Mei-Ann Chen is acclaimed for infusing orchestras with energy, enthusiasm and high-level music-making, galvanizing audiences and communities alike. Music Director of the MacArthur Award-winning Chicago Sinfonietta since 2011, Ms. Chen has been Chief Conductor of Austria’s recreation – Grosses Orchester Graz at Styriarte since fall 2021, following two seasons as the orchestra’s first-ever Principal Guest Conductor, making her the first female Asian conductor to hold this position with an Austrian orchestra. Since 2019, she has served as the first-ever Artistic Partner of Houston’s ROCO and became an Artistic Partner with Northwest Sinfonietta in Washington state in fall 2022. Highly regarded as a compelling communicator and an innovative leader both on and off the podium, and a sought-after guest conductor, she has appeared with distinguished orchestras throughout the Americas, Europe, Taiwan, The United Kingdom, and Scandinavia, and continues to expand her relationships with orchestras worldwide (over 120 orchestras to date).
Maestra Chen’s 2022-23 season includes her impressive Minnesota Orchestra debut, stepping in last minute for Maestra Marin Alsop to conduct the popular New Year’s Eve concerts, and debuts with Germany’s Staatsorchester Darmstadt, Orchestra national Capitole Toulouse (her France debut), Sinfonica National de Costa Rica, and in the US with Rochester and Buffalo philharmonic, Hawaii Symphony, and American Composers Orchestra in a subscription program presented by Carnegie Hall featuring Mark Adama’s Last Year (NY premiere) and two Carnegie Hall co-commission world premieres by Yvette Janine Jackson and Inti Figgis-Vizeutaand. Return engagements include California’s Pacific and Charlotte Symphony, Santa Fe Pro Musica, Canada’s Calgary Philharmonic, and in Sweden with Norrlandsoperan. Summer 2023 engagements include her Spoleto Festival USA debut, return to Vienna’s Tonkunstler Orchestra at the Grafenegg Festival, and conducting Beethoven’s Eroica in a theaterical project in Graz at the STYRIARTE Summer Festival.
Recent guesting highlights include England’s BBC Symphony in London, Finland’s Helsinki Philharmonic, Liechtenstein Symphony, Norway’s Oslo Philharmonic and Norwegian Radio Orchestra, Residentie Orchestra in The Netherlands, Malmö and Norrlandsoperan Symphonies in Sweden, Taiwan Philharmonic, Spain’s Basque National Orchestra, Austria’s Tonkünstler Orchestra, Finland’s Tampere Philharmonic, Germany’s Musikalische Academie des Nationaltheater-Orchestesters Mannheim, and NDR Radiophilharmonie Hanover, Sweden’s Gävle and Helsingborg Symphonies, Switzerland’s Luzerner Symphony, Taiwan’s Kaohsiung Symphony at Weiwuying (the world’s largest performing arts center since 2018).
North American guesting credits include appearances with symphonies of Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, National, Oregon, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Tucson, and Vancouver, to name a few. Her other overseas guesting credits include symphonies of BBC Scottish, Brazil’s São Paulo (OSESP), Denmark’s National, Aalborg, Aarhus, Odense and Copenhagen Philharmonic, Germany’s Badische Staatskapelle Karlsruhe, Mexico’s National, Norway’s Trondheim, Sweden’s Gothenburg and Norrköping, Switzerland’s Basel, and Turkey’s Bilkent in Ankara.
As Music Director of Chicago Sinfonietta, Ms. Chen has made two recordings for Cedille Records: “Delights and Dances” (June 2013) and “Project W – Works by Diverse Women Composers” (released March 2019 by GRAMMY®-nominated producer, Jim Ginsburg), featuring world premiere recordings for works by Florence Price, Clarice Assad, Jessie Montgomery, and Reena Esmail. In 2018, Innova Records released ROCO’s debut album “ROCO: Visions Take Flight” (produced by GRAMMY®-winning producer, Blanton Alspaugh) featuring 5 commissioned contemporary works by Karim Al-Zand, Reena Esmail, Derek Bermel, Anthony DiLorenzo, Marcus Karl Maroney.
A strong advocate for music education, Maestra Chen dedicates significant time for mentoring young conductors through Chicago Sinfonietta Freeman Conducting Fellowship since 2014 and conducts ensembles at important educational institutions, such as Carnegie’s esteemed NYO2 for young musicians (age 14-17), New England Conservatory (her alma mater) and Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, and at various training programs, including the New World Symphony in Miami, Texas Music Festival, Boston University Tanglewood Institute, Ung Filharmoni in Norway, Austria’s STYRIARTE Festival Youth Orchestra and Soundflix Youth Orchestra project in Graz, the newly created Youth Orchestra hosted by the Taiwan National Symphony Orchestra in 2024 after leading the Youth Orchestra Camp as the Artistic Director of National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra Summer Festival (2016-2021), and served as Music Director of the renowned Portland Youth Philharmonic in Oregon (2002-2007).
Past honors include being named one of the 2015 Top 30 Influencers by Musical America, the 2012 Helen M. Thompson Award from the League of American Orchestras; Winner, the 2007 Taki Concordia Fellowship founded by Marin Alsop; and 2005 First Prize Winner of the Malko Competition (she remains as the only woman in the competition history since 1965 to have won First Prize). Ms. Chen is Conductor Laureate of the Memphis Symphony after serving as Music Director (2010 – 2016). Born in Taiwan, Ms. Chen came to the United States to study violin in 1989 at Walnut Hill High School, received violin performance undergraduate degree from New England Conservatory before becoming the first student in New England Conservatory’s history to be awarded master’s degrees simultaneously in both violin and conducting, and she earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting at the University of Michigan.