This season audience favourite Ray Chen is in residence at the Centre for Fine Arts, the place where his career took off.
1. What’s your favourite kind of music?
90% of my time is spent listening to and studying classical music. It’s the very air most musicians breathe. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t like spending time underwater and experiencing a whole different world. In my spare time, I love listening to all kinds of music. A few of my favorite bands are Radiohead, The XX, Flight Facilities, and Daft Punk.
2. It was at BOZAR that you won the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition in 2009. What does it mean for you to play in Brussels?
Brussels is the place where it all started. Winning the competition in 2009 changed my life from an ordinary student to being recognized on the professional stage. During that time I lived in Brussels for 2 months and made many dear friends. I even still stay with my host family every time I’m in the city! It’s a wonderful feeling to be back.
My concert in March 2017 at BOZAR was special due to a dramatic moment. While I was performing the third movement of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2, my E-string snapped! I quickly moved my left hand up to play the passage on the A string and during the brief 3 second tutti, I exchanged violins with the concertmaster and threw him a spare string from my jacket pocket, all without missing a beat. The best part about it is that it’s on YouTube so you can check it out!
3. You engage actively with your audience via social media. You post funny clips on Youtube and do a lot of meet & greets. Why is it important to you to communicate directly to your audience?
Being a musician is being a communicator. We communicate to our audiences when we’re on stage, why should we not communicate to them when we’re off the stage? Social media has become a wonderful tool to use, and can be used for a variety of ways in addition to communicating with your audiences. I’ve used it for music education and also to raise money for charity. The entertainment side which includes the funny videos, have been great in getting the attention of younger generations. One important aspect to remember is that an audience can never be too young to enjoy classical music. I’ve had many parents write to me saying “My 6 year old son/daughter is a big fan of yours through your funny videos, now that you’re coming to our city, I’m going to show them the ‘serious side’ of Ray Chen”. I mean, how cool is that?
4. Who is on your wish list to perform with in the future?
My favorite living violinist is Janine Jansen. So I guess she’s on my wish list. So is Yo-Yo Ma because he’s just the most generous person ever. I’d love to also one day have the opportunity to play with one of my favorite bands The XX. I could die happy then.
5. If you had to play another instrument, what would it be? And if you wouldn’t be a musician at all, what would you do in life?
If I had to choose another instrument it would be the cello, but I’m not sure if I’d be any good at it. If I wasn’t a musician at all, then I would try to be a film director.