Ricky Chen

Cochran Chapel echoed with beautiful notes from Ricky Chen ’09 on the piano last Sunday afternoon for his senior recital. The performance consisted pieces by Bach, Chopin, Haydn, and Samuel Barber. Sunday’s performance was Chen’s favorite performance ever. “The performance was so personal, with my family, friends, and teachers in the audience. It added a lot of meaning to it.” Chen began piano at age four with the Yamaha program for piano under the guidance of his aunt. At age 10, when Chen moved to the U.S. from Taiwan, he said he “really started enjoying [the piano.]” It is at this time that he began to work with his current teacher, who has taught him for eight years. Since then, Chen has competed in several piano competitions. He won first place in the New England Piano Teacher’s Association Competition his freshman year, and just last week won the Massachusetts Music Teacher’s Association Competition. He has played at Carnegie Hall for the American Fine Arts Festival, a nation-wide program consisting of 25 kids. Last year, Chen was abroad in Spain, and managed to find Ivan Citera, a renowned Argentinian-born pianist, to teach him. “I was very lucky to find him,” said Chen. At Andover, Chen has performed recitals, and played in last winter’s Nutcracker, and Bedtime, a dance performance, with music performed by musicians at Phillips Academy. He sees his teacher outside of school, and loves to practice in Phillips Academy’s chapel, on the Steinway piano, which he said is “one of the best pianos I’ve ever played on.” “I’m very sad to be finishing my senior recital. The whole time I was thinking, maybe I’ll just play this note a little longer,” Chen said. Chase Potter ’09, began the show by introducing his friend with glowing remarks. As Chen began to play, the music took him, and he was absorbed in it. The performance began with the piece Partita No. 6 in E Minor, Chen’s favorite piece in the show, composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, his favorite composer. “Bach is the hardest [composer to play], it takes a lot of concentration, because of the way you have to play each note with dedication, the tones behind each note, the rhythm, everything’s mathematical, organized. Every note has to be there, if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t make sense,” Chen said. Chen loves Bach’s music for its characteristic overlapping voices, the canons. “[In Bach], one voice sings, while the other follows it,” he said. Throughout the entire first piece, the audience was completely silent, transfixed on Chen’s playing. When he finished, Chen was showered in a roar of applause, as the chapel had filled with friends and faculty members. The second piece was Barcarolle, Op, 60, composed by Frederic Chopin. Chen said he liked the “harmony” of Chopin. Chen’s third piece was Piano Sonata in E Flat Major, Hob. XVI: 49, by Haydn. Chen saved one of his best pieces for last, Piano Sonata, Op. 26, by Samuel Barber. “It’s very American, very rhythmic, very loud. There’s an energy behind it,” said Chen. Chen received an abundance of praise from his friends and teachers after the performance. “Ricky’s amazing. He’s the best pianist I’ve ever met,” said Taryn Wiens ’09. “It’s not often you realize that the people you know so well at Phillips Academy have such special talents like this.” Seth Bardo, Instructor in English, said, “I’m speechless.” It is appropriate that Potter introduced Chen as they met each other on Chen’s first day at Andover. Looking back on his growth over the past four years, Potter made Chen realize that people here are “more complex than just a label,” that Potter, a track captain and hockey player, but also an actor, was not just a “hockey player.” It is this lesson that Chen values most. “[Phillips Academy] taught me that music isn’t the only thing in life,” he said.