Praised for her dynamic, passionate conducting style, Taiwanese-American conductor Mei-Ann Chen is acclaimed for infusing orchestras with energy, enthusiasm and high-level music-making, galvanizing audiences and communities alike. Music Director of the MacArthur Award-winning Chicago Sinfonietta since 2011, Ms. Chen has been named Principal Guest Conductor of Austria’s Recreation Grosses Orchester Graz, and the first-ever Artistic Partner of Houston’s River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO), both effective September 2019. She also has served as Artistic Director & Conductor for the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra Summer Festival since 2016. Highly regarded as a compelling communicator and an innovative leader both on and off the podium, and a sought-after guest conductor, she continues to expand her relationships with orchestras worldwide.
Upcoming highlights for 2019-2020 season include debuts with Germany’s NDR Radiophilharmonie and Darmstedt Staatsorchester, Interlochen Arts Festival in Michigan, Netherland’s Residentie Orkest at The Hague, New York Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concerts, Norway’s Oslo Philharmonic, Spain’s Basque National Orchestra, Switzerland’s Luzerner Sinfonieorchester, and debuts with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at Maida Vale Studios and at Taiwan’s National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts (Weiwuying, the world’s largest performing arts center since 2018) with Kaohsiung Symphony Orchestra. In her ninth season as Music Director of the Chicago Sinfonietta, Ms. Chen returns to Styriarte’s Recreation Grosses Orchester Graz for multiple programs as the new Principal Guest Conductor and to ROCO as the new Artistic Partner. Ms. Chen will also lead National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra’s 2019 Summer Festival Youth Orchestra on a 4-Concert Tour in Taiwan and Vietnam, as well as return engagements with the symphony orchestras of America’s Detroit, Pacific, and Tucson, Sweden’s Gävle, Helsingborgs, Malmö and Norrlands Operan, and Finland’s Tampere Filharmonia.
North American guesting credits include appearances with the Symphony Orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, National, Nashville, Oregon, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, and Vancouver, to name a few. Amongst her overseas guesting credits are the symphonies of Austria’s Tonkünstler in Vienna; BBC Scottish; Brazil’s São Paulo (OSESP); Denmark’s National, Aalborg, Aarhus, Odense and Copenhagen Philharmonic; Germany’s Badische Staatskapelle Karlsruhe; Mexico’s National; Norway’s Radio and Trondheim; Sweden’s Gothenburg and Norrköping; the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra at the Concertgebouw; Switzerland’s Basel; Turkey’s Bilkent; and Taiwan’s Philharmonic. Ms. Chen’s U.S. summer music festival credits include Aspen, Grant Park, Grand Teton, Ravinia, Texas, and Wintergreen.
As Music Director of Chicago Sinfonietta, Ms. Chen has made two recordings for Cedille Records: "Project W - Works by Diverse Women Composers" (March 2019), featuring the world premiere recordings of newly commissioned American works by Jennifer Higdon, Clarice Assad, Reena Esmail, and Jessie Montgomery, and William Grant Still’s orchestral arrangement of Florence Price’s Dances in the Canebrakes; and "Delights and Dances" (June 2013) featuring world premiere recordings of works by Michael Abels, An-Lun Huang, Randall Craig Fleischer's arrangement of Bernstein's West Side Story Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra and Benjamin Lees' Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra, featuring the Harlem Quartet. This past November 2018, Innova Records released River Oaks Chamber Orchestra's debut album "ROCO: Visions Take Flight", praised by artsfuse.org as "one of those rarest of accomplishments: a contemporary music album that’s a sheer joy to listen to, from start to finish." Ms. Chen, a frequent guest conductor with the orchestra, conducts the CD which features the world premiere recordings of five of the orchestra's commissioned works.
Recognized as someone who has redefined the orchestra experience, amongst Ms. Chen’s honors and awards are being named one of the 2015 Top 30 Influencers by Musical America, (the bible of the performing arts industry); the 2012 Helen M. Thompson Award from the League of American Orchestras; Winner, the 2007 Taki Concordia Fellowship; and 2005 First Prize Winner of the prestigious Malko Competition. Ms. Chen is the recipient of several ASCAP awards for innovative programming during her tenure as the Music Director of Chicago Sinfonietta & Portland Youth Philharmonic in Oregon (2002 – 2007). Ms. Chen is also Conductor Laureate of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, having served as Music Director from 2010 to 2016.
Born in Taiwan, Mei-Ann Chen came to the United States to study violin in 1989 and became the first student in New England Conservatory’s history to receive master’s degrees simultaneously in both violin and conducting. She later studied with Kenneth Kiesler at the University of Michigan, where she earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting. Ms. Chen participated in the National Conductor Preview, National Conducting Institute, Aspen American Academy of Conducting, and Pierre Monteux School.