Recipient of the prestigious Charles Ives Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2001-04), Chen Yi has served as the Lorena Searcey Cravens/Millsap/Missouri Distinguished Professor in Music Composition at the Conservatory of the University of Missouri-Kansas City since 1998. Prior to her current appointment, Chen served on the composition faculty of Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (1996-98) and as Composer-in-Residence with the Women's Philharmonic, Chanticleer, and Aptos Creative Arts Center in San Francisco (1993-96), supported by Meet The Composer's New Residencies Program. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005.
Born April 4, 1953, in Guangzhou, China, into a family of doctors with a strong interest in classical music, Chen Yi started studying violin and piano at age three with Zheng Rihua and Li Suxin, and music theory with Zheng Zhong. Dr. Chen has received music degrees from the Beijing Central Conservatory (BA and MA) and Columbia University in the City of New York (DMA). Dr. Chen's major composition teachers included Professors Chou Wen-chung, Mario Davidovsky, Wu Zu-qiang and Alexander Goehr.
Chen Yi was the first woman to receive a master's degree in composition in China in June, 1986, when she presented a full evening concert of her orchestral works in Beijing. She was also the first woman to present a full evening multimedia orchestral concert in the US (for orchestra, choir, Chinese traditional instrumental soloists, dancers, and image projection the Chinese Myths Cantata), in May, 1996, with three sold out performances in San Francisco. In 2001, she was invited by the China National Symphony Orchestra and Chorus to give an evening-length concert of her orchestral and choral works in Beijing. On May 29, 2008, there is another evening concert of her more recent orchestral works presented by the China National Symphony Orchestra in Beijing. By combining Chinese and Western traditions, Chen Yi transcends cultural and musical boundaries, and serves as an ambassador for the arts, creating music that reaches a wide range of audiences and inspires people of different cultural backgrounds.
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 Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's Elise Stoeger Award (2002), the Edgar Snow Memorial Fund's Friendship Ambassador Award (2002), an honorary doctorate from Lawrence University (2002), 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, Chamber Music America, Meet The Composer, the Creative Work Fund, the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Mary Cary Trust, NYSCA, Carnegie Hall, New Heritage Music Foundation, Friends of Dresden Music Foundation, the American Guild of Organists, the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition, the Eastman School, Ithaca College, Bradley University, Miami University, Chorus America, and the 6th World Symposium on Choral Music. Commissioning ensembles and soloists include the Lucerne Music Festival for the Cleveland Orchestra, Mira Wang along with the Sachsische Staatskapelle Dresden and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke's, the BBC Proms Festival for Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, Yo-Yo Ma and the Pacific Symphony, Rascher Saxophone Quartet and the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, Yehudi Menuhin, Emanuel Ax, Michala Petri, Evelyn Glennie and the Singapore Symphony, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, The Women's Philharmonic, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Wind Symphony, Philadelphia Classical Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota, New Music Consort, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Chanticleer, KITKA, San Francisco Citywinds, the San Francisco Girls Chorus, Music From China, the Ying Quartet, the Elements Quartet, the Shanghai Quartet, the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra, the HK Chinese Orchestra, Boston Musica Viva, Network For New Music, Opus 21, Chicago a cappella, KC Chorale, Peninsula Women's Chorus, and many others. Dr. Chen's music is performed worldwide and published by Theodore Presser Company. Her works have been recorded on the New Albion (1997), CRI/NewWorld (1999/2007), Teldec (1997, 1999 with Grammy, 2003), Nimbus (1993, 2000), Cala (1995), Avant (1998), Atma (1999), Hugo (2000), Angel (2001), Bis (2002-4), Albany (2004-6), Cavalli (2004), Centaur (2004-5), Quartz (2006), and China Record Corporation (1986, 1990) labels. Dr. Chen's most recent CD releases include recordings of a cello concerto, Eleanor's Gift [Troy648], the Golden Flute concerto [KIC7566], a string quartet, At the Kansas City Chinese New Year Concert [QTZ2055], and a third album of orchestral works titled Momentum.
Premieres from 2007 and 2008 include Three Bagatelles from China West (2007, for flute and piano), Looking at the Sea (2007, for women's chorus), China West Suite (2007, for 2 pianos), a song cycle, From the Path of Beauty, for Chanticleer and the Shanghai Quartet (2008), The Ancient Chinese Beauty, a recorder concerto for Michala Petri, (2008), Suite From China West, a wind ensemble work for the Metropolitan Wind Symphony (2008), Tunes from My Home for The Newstead Trio (2008), an orchestral work Rhyme of Fire (formerly titled Olympic Fire) for the Royal Philharmonic at the BBC Proms (2008), a woodwind quintet for Antara Winds, a double concerto for oboe and sheng and the China National Symphony (2008), and an overture for the new China National Theatre (2009 New Year).
Premiere works in 2009 include a chamber orchestra work for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, a student orchestra work for Omaha Area Youth Symphony, a marimba solo work for Nancy Zeltsman, a duet for the Music Teachers' Association of CA, and new wind ensemble works for both the MAC Band Director's Association and the NWECG.
Recent years have seen the world premieres of numerous other works, including the cello concerto, Ballad, Dance and Fantasy (written for Yo-Yo Ma); Symphony No. 3; Tu, for symphonic wind ensemble (adapted from the original version for full orchestra); Celebration (for orchestra); Spring in Dresden, a violin concerto written for Mira Wang; Si Ji (Four Seasons), a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Music, product of the prestigious second Roche Commission and the subject of a book published by Roche; The Han Figurines (sextet); Tibetan Tunes (piano trio); Ji-Dong-Nuo, for solo piano, commissioned by Carnegie Hall for Emanuel Ax; Ancient Dances (pipa and percussion duet written for Wu Man); and The Ancient Beauty, for Chinese instruments and string orchestra, written for Music From China.
Chen Yi is in high demand as a lecturer at composition workshops and at concerts of her music throughout the world. She was 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, and presently serves on the boards, advisory councils or juries of Meet The Composer, Chamber Music America, the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University, the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, American Composers Orchestra, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the International Alliance of Women in Music, as well as numerous other music organizations.