A renowned pianist, vital champion and early tester of score following software program Antescofo, founder of FaceArt Institute of Music, piano faculty member of UC Berkeley, and career mentor at Manhattan School of Music, Jenny Q Chai
does it all. Widely known for her ability to illuminate musical connections throughout the centuries, Chai creates layered multimedia programs which explore and unite elements of science, nature, fashion, and art.
Jenny began playing piano at a very young age, when she was about three and a half years old. Studying at the Shanghai Music Conservatory, one of the best conservatories in China, the pianist described the environment as very rigorous and competitive — not in a healthy competitive way, but more so aggressive. At the same time, the experience gave her a good foundation as she had to prepare for performances every month.
At the age of 12, she was accepted to Curtis Institute of Music for a full-ride scholarship and moved to the United States with her dad. Compared to the conservatory in her hometown, where there were 10 piano students in her grade, the entire Curtis had 12 pianists in total.
Looking back on the experience, Jenny tells me that it definitely was not a conventional way of growing up: she was a child and most of her classmates were college-age students, and some were 40. "I think musically [and] academically it wasn't a problem," she says, mentioning that she graduated high school at 16 and got her BA at 19.
In terms of emotional maturity, the musician feels ambiguous: there were no grades and she was always around people who were so much older. "I remember there was a guy who talked to me for a long time and told his friends he wanted to ask me out. When he realized I was 13 years old he just freaked out. I had no idea… I was just happy to chat," Chai laughs.