When the winners of the American Protégé International Concerto Competition took the stage at New York City's Carnegie Hall last month, Taft's Vincent Chen ’24 was among them.
When the winners of the American Protégé International Concerto Competition took the stage at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City last month, Vincent Chen '24 was among them.
"I performed Zapateado by Pablo Sarasate," says Vincent, whose selection came in the year American Protégé received its largest number of competitive applicants to date—applicants representing 64 home countries.
This was Vincent's third time playing at Carnegie Hall—an extraordinary achievement for any high school student. But Vincent is not any high school student. In addition to being an upper mid at Taft, Vincent is a student of the Starling Preparatory String Project at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (CCM). Before arriving at Taft, he flew to Cincinnati from his home in Virginia every Saturday for violin lessons, music theory classes, and performances. He has continued his studies weekly online with CCM's renowned professor Kurt Sassmannshaus, son of violin pedagogue Egon Sassmannshaus. Vincent works with Professor Sassmannshaus each summer at the Bowdoin Music Festival.
At Taft, Vincent studies and performs with Instrumental Music Teacher T.J. Thompson.
"Vincent is undoubtedly one of the most advanced, creative, and approachable problem solvers I have had the opportunity to teach," says Thompson. "He will always rank as one of the most inclusive students and artists I have ever encountered: lifting everyone in some way to learn and grow together through the process. This has always been the case whether playing violin (or viola) in Chamber Ensemble, working in Music Theory or Composition, performing in musical theater, and now learning fiddle in Jazz Studies."
The respect and admiration are mutual.
"Mr. Thompson has transformed the way I view music, and helped me to expand the scope of my understanding of music beyond playing the violin," Vincent explains. "It has been fascinating and refreshing to see how my musical knowledge from violin can be applied to other genres of music, instruments, and composition."
In addition to expanding his understanding of music, Vincent was eager to expand his formal performance experience and repertoire. Knowing that winners of the American Protégé International Concerto Competition would be invited to perform at Carnegie Hall, Vincent submitted the two unedited video clips and biography required to be considered for the competition early last year; he was notified fairly quickly that he was among the competition winners.
"I love playing in Carnegie Hall," Vincent says. "Weill Recital Hall has warm acoustics but also generates a very crisp sound."
The is marks Vincent's second win in the American Protégé International Concerto Competition. Six years ago, he performed the Bruch Violin Concerto during the winner's recital in Weill. In 2019, Vincent also won first prize in a concerto competition hosted by The Capitol Symphonic Youth Orchestras (TCSYO). The prize: a solo performance with TCSYO in Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium.
"I was a soloist playing the Saint-Saens violin concerto No. 3," recalls Vincent. "I remember playing more powerfully to be heard over the orchestra and to fill the larger Stern Auditorium. When I listened to a recording of my performance, I was amazed at how brilliant and resonant every note sounded."
Enjoy a clip of Vincent performing his competition piece, Zapateado by Sarasate, recorded in a studio in the days after the recital.