Violinist Ray Chen has a spark rarely associated with classical music. Acquiring a following on social media, he makes youtube videos that are LOL-worthy. His cleverly-edited videos poke fun at himself, explore culinary cityscapes, and provide violin-playing tips. Mostly, his video-making hobby is just a way of connecting with young musicians and giving them “something to smile about,” he says.
His comedic ingenuity is counterpointed by a profoundly intellectual manner of thinking. In addition to music, he has a high appreciation for other art forms, especially when demonstrating “effort and sincerity.”
“The road to becoming a professional musician is an arduous one,” he says, describing the long hours in the isolation of the practice room. “It’s a daunting task that you’re faced with as a young musician, because all of the music which you’re studying has already been presented before,” he says.
Yet, full of lively positivism, Ray Chen proves multi-faceted when playing the violin and communicating centuries old emotions. Mr. Chen only plays music he connects to and can sincerely embody. “The truest, most honest way of approaching music is to give yourself fully. You become that. It’s what you need to become,” he says.
Despite the acclaim he has received and awards he has won, he speaks of himself humbly and gives back generously. For the past year, he has graciously served on the jury of the same youth competition that he won in 2008, the Yehudi Menuhin. He explains that the younger players have a sense of “fearlessness” that musicians lose when graduating from high school and auditioning for conservatories. “You lose something that you then spend the next decade trying to find back.”
Ray Chen reassures listeners that music conveys emotions, and that no special training is required to appreciate it. “We don’t really talk about how to listen to classical music. A lot of people, especially newcomers think they have to pay attention to every single small detail, and that’s not necessarily the case. I think that you should just relax and let the mind wander if it does. It’s meant to do that.
This Saturday February 11, he will be playing alongside the Bamberg Symphony orchestra at the Adrienne Arsht Center, which BBC has called one of the best in the world.
Start celebrating Valentine’s Day early this weekend with the sweeping emotions of the romantic composer, Bruch.
Tickets available here.
Visit Ray Chen’s youtube channel here.
Cover Photo Credit: Sophie Zhai. Courtesy: CAMI Music.
Second Photo Credit: Tom Doms. Courtesy: CAMI Music.