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Redmond cellist qualifies for national competition
As a tiny fourth-grader, Audrey Chen was drawn to the biggest instrument in the music room: the cello.
The 17-year-old Redmond resident is now a senior at Interlake High School, and has received many accolades for playing the instrument. She recently became a national finalist for the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Senior Strings Competition.
In order to qualify for the national MTNA competition in Chicago, Chen first competed at the state level and then in the Pacific Northwest division. She competed with fellow cellists, as well as violinists and violists.
“I really like the cello for its mellow sound, and it’s really warm,” said Chen. “I feel bad if I don’t practice for, like, two days. You can tell the difference if you haven’t been practicing.”
Chen also enjoys fencing, riding her bike, reading and playing the piano, which she has been playing since she was 6. One reason she pursued mastering the cello instead of the piano is the ability to perform the cello solo, in chamber with a small group of people and in orchestra with a bigger group.
Chen will perform solo at the competition, but emphasizes the feeling of community she finds through playing the cello in orchestra.
“In orchestra you can be part of this large group of people, where you’re all working together to create beautiful, uniform sound,” said Chen. “It really helps to boost your confidence in just how far you can get in music if you can find those who are taking the same path.”
This past summer, Chen was part of the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. She was one of the 120 young musicians in the nation chosen to visit and train in London, Russia and cities on the East Coast. She is also part of the Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Interlake Chamber Orchestra.
“Audrey Chen is an extraordinary talented musician, an IB (International Baccalaureate) Diploma recipient, and a thoughtful and charismatic young lady,” said Dr. Shira Katsman, the director of orchestras at Interlake. “She generously serves the community by often volunteering to play at school functions.”
Last month, Chen won first place for her solo performance in the Sammamish Symphony Orchestra’s Youth Concerto.
In addition to being part of her school orchestras since elementary school, Chen has had private lessons since she began playing the cello. Her private teacher, Kai Chen (no relation), has taught her all that she knows about the cello, she said.
The MTNA is an organization that supports the careers of music teachers throughout the nation. Their student competition is an opportunity for the students of association members to demonstrate their musical education and talent. Kai Chen is not involved with the association, but was able to register Audrey Chen as a non-member.
“She is the best player in the Washington state,” said Kai Chen, who has been teaching Audrey Chen for a span of nine years.
Chen will head to Chicago to compete in the MTNA Senior Strings Competition on March 23. The winner receives a cash prize and performs in a concert the day after the competition. For Chen, the most rewarding part of winning is the opportunity to perform and appreciate her own progress as an artist.
“I’ve been looking into a science,” said Chen, regarding her plans to pursue a dual degree in music and another major in college. “I know it doesn’t seem very related, but I’ve always thought I could find a connection between the two.”
Adiba Khan is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.