Arts and Entertainment

Cellist Audrey Chen moves on to national competition in Chicago

Audrey Chen - Courtesy Photo
Audrey Chen
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

An Interlake High junior will pack her cello case and head to Chicago in March to compete against senior strings players from across the nation.

Audrey Chen took first place in the Music Teachers National Association Northwest divisionals, held at Portland’s Reed College Jan. 11. She previously won the Washington state competition in Ellensburg.

Per Association rules, she is playing through all three competitions with the same three-piece set, a repertoire consisting of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 4 Bourées,” Antonín Dvořák’s “Silent Woods” and Samuel Barber’s “Cello Concerto.”

“Seeing as how it’s my senior year, it feels really good,” Chen said of her progression to nationals. “I hadn’t made it this far before so, in that sense, it’s a way to see how I’ve improved.”

Chen was also the winner of the Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra’s concerto competition and the principal cellist of the 2013 National Youth Orchestra. She first picked up the cello in fourth grade and began tutelage under Kai Chen, no relation. She chose the instrument to distinguish herself from her sister, who took up violin, she said.

“Now when I look back at it, it’s still the instrument I would have chosen,” she said. “It’s so mellow, so warm. And there’s an abundance of pieces you can play with it.”

Her favorites are the ones she describes as “romantic.”

“I love romantic music a lot,” Chen said. “Anything, really, that requires emotion … whether in a solo piece or played with a large orchestra, a show of emotion means a lot.”

Maintaining the skill to play out those emotions is an ongoing challenge. Chen practices two hours a day — more on weekends — and records herself to hunt for anything that could be “off.”

Chen plans to continue playing as she transitions into college, in whatever way she can. While some schools will offer a cello major under a music program, others contain only extracurricular opportunities to play. But the cello is so ingrained in her life, she said, she can’t imagine leaving it behind.

The national Senior Strings competition will take place March 23, during the Association’s five-day conference. The winner will earn a $2,000 cash prize and perform in a winners’ concert.

 

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