AMELIA CHAN, VIOLINIST

Amelia Chan is the newly-appointed Concertmaster of the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong (CCOHK) beginning in the 2014-15 season.  

She came to this position from her tenure as Concertmaster of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra concluding in the 2013-14 season. An experienced leader, Amelia has earned high praises from renowned conductors across the Atlantic such as Michael Tilson Thomas, Manfred Huss, Sergiu Commissiona, Theo Alcántara, George Manahan, Elizabeth Schulze, Anton Coppola, Zdeněk Mácal, Graziella Contratto, Jorge Mester, Julius Rudel, Grant Cooper, and Gerard Schwartz. She has also performed with the New York Philharmonic. Amelia has served as the first violinist of the Montclaire String Quartet, and has collaborated as a chamber musician with members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Ying Quartet and the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players. Amelia Chan has appeared as soloist with orchestras including the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, the International Virtuosi Orchestra on tour in Central America, the New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra and the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts Junior Orchestra on tour in Europe. Festival appearances have included the Costa Rica Music Festival, the Guatemala Music Festival, Cooperstown Chamber Music Festival in New York and the Pacific Music Festival in Japan.

Amelia's performances have been heard on WQXR, New York; WQED, Pittsburgh; West Virginia Public Broadcasting; BBC Radio Scotland, Scotland; and RTHK Radio 4, Hong Kong. She has been a recording artist for the Carnegie Hall education website.

A devoted educator, Amelia Chan was on the faculty of the West Virginia State University, and has given masterclasses in universities and schools in the US, Hong Kong, and China. With the Montclaire String Quartet, she performed age-specific outreach programs, many of which combined music with theatre, for over 15,000 kids from kindergarten to high school yearly. In her teaching, Amelia places strong emphasis on the awareness and anatomy of movement as related to music-making. She sees kinesthetics as an integral tool to develop a natural playing technique, and believes that exploration in movement and gestures is essential in understanding musical ideas at the most elemental level. She therefore incorporates studies from these varied branches of bodywork in her teaching to help students of all ages play with ease. Amelia has extensive experience working with both professional and student musicians of different instrument focuses. 

Amelia started learning the piano with her father John Chan, and began her violin study at the Junior School of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. She holds degrees from the Mannes College of Music and Manhattan School of Music. Her teachers have included Thomas Wang, Alice Waten, Albert Markov, Shirley Givens, Lisa Kim, Yoko Takebe, Sheryl Staples, Glenn Dicterow, and double-bassist Julius Levine. 

Amelia plays on a violin made by Luthier Stefan Bauni.

Filtering by Tag: hope

On music, hope... via Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time

I'd like to christen my website with a post about Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time. I think it serves as a nice curtain-raiser to my new page, as it touches on an integral, albeit small, part of the core of who I am as a musician and a person. In its own way, it explains at least one facet of what music means to me, and where my work sprung from. 

The question has always been asked whether the arts, music included, are mere luxuries, non-essentials. And most people do believe that they are important solely for the purpose of entertainment or pleasure. This is a topic on which I could write endlessly about: but for now I will just start with the back story of Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time.

Messiaen was imprisoned in a Nazi German prisoner-of-war camp in Görlitz in the winter of 1941. He discovered that among his fellow prisoners were a clarinetist, a violinist, and a cellist. Messiaen wrote the piece while imprisoned with the help of a sympathetic guard who provided him with a pencil and paper, and solitude to write in. It had its première on a cold January night in an unheated barrack. The audience, including both prisoners and German guards, listened to that performance in sub-zero temperature in absolute rapt silence. Messiaen later said, "Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension."

There's another story about how the premiering cellist Etienne Pasquier got his cello. The prisoners donated 65 marks out of their earnings from chores for him to buy a cello, a bow, and a rosin. Imagine that! Imagine what dire circumstance these war prisoners were in, what piddly earnings they had. What essential, sensible items would one spend those pitiful few dollars on? Probably a precious loaf of bread in the midst of starvation? An extra shirt for the fatally brutal winter? Well, it's a cello!!! A cello not because it could be burned to make a fire for warmth, but so that music could be played from it! Pasquier said that when the German soldiers escorted him back to the camp from the music store, the prisoners were elated and begged him to play for hours. He said, "Oh! They cried for joy. In my whole life, I have never seen such enthusiasm. They made me play until the curfew." 

Art is that barest of thread which humankind hangs on to in times of total desperation. We may be lucky to not have to endure the extent of desperation and hopelessness as Messiaen and his fellow prisoners had. But we have our modern day despair, too. And even small day-to-day setbacks and disappointments erode us at our core bit by bit - we would not survive them if it wasn't for hope. We may have the luxury, or we are simply are not aware enough, to know how hope has kept us going. Or we take it for granted. But it is indeed just as essential for our survival as it was for those prisoners.