Chen Yi : Biography
This is an edited version of Chen Yi's biography (as of June 2009) by the American Music Center.
It includes this note: *CHEN is her family name, Yi is her personal name. CHEN Yi can be referred to as Dr. Chen, Ms. Chen, or Chen Yi.
When she was 17, she returned to her home city and served as concertmaster and composer with the Beijing Opera Troupe. She began, at this time, her research of Chinese traditional music and Western classical music theory under the supervision of Zheng Zhong. When the school system was restored in 1977, Chen enrolled in the Beijing Central Conservatory, where she studied composition under Professor Wu Zu-qiang and British guest composer Alexander Goehr. She continued her violin studies with Professor Lin Yao-ji and began an eight-year systematic study of Chinese traditional music.
In 1983, Ms. Chen composed the first Chinese viola concerto (Xian Shi) and, in 1986, the Chinese Musicians Association, the Central Conservatory of Music, Radio Beijing, CCTV and the Central Philharmonic of China jointly gave, in Beijing, an entire program devoted to Chen's orchestral works, when she became the first woman in China to receive the degree of Master of Arts in composition.
In 1986, Chen Yi went to the United States for further musical studies. Her chamber music has been featured in the film Sound and Silence produced by ISCM in 1989. In 1993, she received her Doctor of Musical Arts, with distinction, from Columbia University, where she studied under Chou Wen-chung and Mario Davidovsky. In the same year, Dr. Chen was appointed, through the Meet the Composer New Residencies program, to a three year term as Composer-in-Residence for the Women's Philharmonic, Chanticleer and the Aptos Creative Arts Program, all in San Francisco.
In June of 1996, Chen had three sold-out gala concerts at the Center for the Arts Theater, Yerba Buena Gardens, SF, with her orchestral works Ge Xu and Symphony No.2, choral works Set Of Chinese Folk Songs and Tang Poems, and the multi-media Chinese Myths Cantata, presented by the WP, Chanticleer and Lili Cai Dance Company, and received critical acclaims. She then joined the composition faculty of Peabody Conservatory, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (1996-1998). She is the Cravens/Millsap/Missouri Distinguished Professor in Composition at the UMKC Conservatory starting in 1998.
As the recipient of the prestigious Ives Living Award (2001-2004) from the American Academy of Arts and Letter, 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 in the Chinese National Composition Competition (1985), the Lili Boulanger Award from the National Women Composers Resource Center (1993), New York University’s Sorel Medal (1996), the CalArts/Alpert Award (1997), a Grammy Award (1999), the University of Texas Eddie Medora King Composition Prize (1999), the Adventurous Programming and Concert Music awards from ASCAP (1999 and 2001, respectively), the ASCAP Concert Music Award (2001), the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Elise Stoeger Award (2002), the Edgar Snow Memorial Fund’s Friendship Ambassador Award (2002), honorary doctorates from Lawrence University in WI (2002), Baldwin-Wallace College in OH (2008), and University of Portland in OR (2009), and the Kauffman Award in Artistry/Scholarship from the UMKC Conservatory (2006).
Dr. Chen has received major commissions from the Koussevitzky, Fromm, Ford, Rockefeller, and Roche foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and many orchestras and other musical organizations.
Dr. Chen’s music is performed worldwide and published by Theodore Presser Company. Her works have been recorded on New Albion, CRI, New World, Teldec (with a Grammy), Nimbus, Cala, Avant, Atma, Hugo, Angel, Bis, Albany, Cavalli, Centaur, Quartz, Naxos, Koch International Classics, Delos, Hugo, China Record Corporation, among others.
In her compositions, Chen Yi tries to distill from Chinese and Western traditional music the essential character and spirit and to develop materials abstractly in accordance with new concepts. Transcending cultural and musical boundaries, serving as an ambassador for the arts, creating "real music" for society and future generations, which reaches a wide range of audiences and inspires people of different cultural backgrounds, is her main goal.
Chen Yi is in high demand as a lecturer at composition workshops and at concerts of her music throughout the world. She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005, and appointed by the China Ministry of Education to the prestigious three-year Changjiang Scholar Visiting Professorship at the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music in 2006. She presently serves on the advisory boards of Meet The Composer, Chamber Music America, the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University, the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, American Composers Orchestra, the League of Composers/ISCM, and the International Alliance of Women in Music, among other music organizations.