An adventurous and prodigiously talented young player, Jenny Q Chai cultivates a mercurial and engrossing stage presence and seeks to create “fairy tales for grown-ups” in her themed and multimedia concert performances.
Ms. Chai’s unique programs include standard classical repertoire such as Schumann and Debussy to 20th and 21st century piano works, often by living composers, such as Marco Stroppa, with whom she has a close affiliation.
Recently having made her Carnegie Hall debut at Zankel Hall, piano performing artist Jenny Q Chai was praised by the New York Times’ Anthony Tommasini for her “resourceful technique and sensitivity” as well as playing that is “admirable for its refinement and directness.” Of her performance at the Keys to the Future Festival, Zachary Woolfe wrote, also in the New York Times: “Jenny Q Chai opened the concert playing two of Ligeti’s Études with rich tone and rhythmic clarity; especially strong was her “Cordes à vide.” In addition to Carnegie Hall, Jenny has played at New York venues such as Le Poisson Rouge, Roulette, Symphony Space, the Stone and recently made her Chicago debut playing Schumann’s Kreisleriana at the Dame Myra Hess Series.
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 and Five Pieces (for Jenny Q Chai) by Nils Vigeland, Intimate Rejection by Ashley Fu-Tsun Wang, Messiaen’s Canteyodjaya (China premiere) and Marco Stroppa’s Innige Cavatina (US premiere). 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. Chai played the first contemporary solo piano concert in China this June at the National Performing Arts Center in Beijing; and she recently 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.
In what is already an illustrious career, Chai’s performances have been covered in major media 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. Chai recently received her Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Manhattan School of Music, where she wrote her thesis (advisor, Marilyn Nonken) on composer Marco Stroppa. Chai has also studied at the Shanghai Music Conservatory, at Curtis Institute of Music with Seymour Lipkin, and has received two degrees from the Manhattan School of Music where she studied with Solomon Mikowsky, Nils Vigeland, and Anthony de Mare. In Germany, she studied with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, and performed in Ensemble 20/21, directed by David Smeyers, as well as the group Musikfabrik.
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,” says Chai, “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 serves on the Board of Directors for the New York City-based contemporary music organization Ear to Mind. In Ear to Mind performances in 2011 and 2012, Chai premiered a number of new works, including Five Pieces (for Jenny Q Chai) by Nils Vigeland as well as works by Inhyun Kim and Ashley Fu-Tsun Wang. Jenny is also founder of FaceArt Music InterNations (www.Faceart.info) in Shanghai. FaceArt is an educational center, contemporary music presenter and cultural exchange organization at the frontier of bringing Western contemporary music and the philosophy of American music education to China.