For Stella F. Chen ’15, music is more than entertainment—it is a passion. Chen, a joint concentrator in music and math, is also enrolled in a five year, dual-degree program with the New England Conservatory. At Harvard, Chen, a violinist, is involved with many musical groups, including the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, the Brattle Street Chamber Players and the Dunster House Opera. Chen is also active on an international scale, having performed in competitions and recitals worldwide—she will perform at the Louvre next year.
The Harvard Crimson: What drew you to music and to the violin?
Stella Chen: For a long time, I played the violin because it was one of the things that my parents enrolled me in as a kid. But there is a reason why I continued to do it over other activities—I really feel that I can communicate by playing music. It is much more comfortable for me to emote on the violin. It is satisfying for me in both an emotional and intellectual way, and I really couldn’t describe why or how, but it is the biggest passion in my life right now.
THC: Can you describe your musical experience prior to Harvard?
SC: As a child, I participated in many solo competitions abroad, and I feel lucky because I got the chance to play in places such as Wales and France, which I otherwise might not have visited as a child. It’s interesting because most people that I’ve met are familiar with doing youth orchestras and such, but I never got the chance to do that when I was younger. I took a gap year to attend Julliard, and it was the first time that I played in a full orchestra, which was exciting.
THC: What was that transition like?
SC: I’ve found that musicians sometimes do not prefer orchestral playing because they may feel that there isn’t as high of a standard, or they may feel like they are one of the masses—but I have definitely enjoyed my time with the orchestra. Here at Harvard, my experience has been no different. I have a lot of fun, and our conductor creates a good atmosphere.
THC: Who are your most important musical influences?
SC: Some of my favorite compositions come from Beethoven and Schubert. That said, whatever piece I may be playing at any given point will be my favorite piece for the time being. In terms of performers, my hero is David Oistrak—there is something about the way in which he plays and interprets music that blows me away. And of course, one of my major mentors and idols has been Itzhak Perlman. I first joined his music camp when I was 14, and he’s been a big role model and guide ever since.
THC: What are some projects and concerts with which you are currently involved?
SC: This Friday is the Brattle Street Chamber Players concert. One of my co-presidents and friends, George Myers, is composing a piece for it—we always commission an undergraduate piece—and we are hard at work on that. The next weekend [Saturday, Nov. 18th], I will be playing the Beethoven Triple Concerto with the Mozart Society Orchestra.
THC: Do you personally compose music?
SC: I am not brave enough. I think there is a certain confidence that you have to have in order to write your own music. I don’t think I have the confidence or the musical theory background to compose in the near future.
THC: Any post-graduate plans for music?
SC: I have no idea, and it’s really scary—but I love music, and I will definitely keep doing that as long as it makes me happy.