An artist of singular vision, pianist Jenny Q Chai is widely renowned for her ability to illuminate musical connections throughout the centuries. With radical joie de vivre and razor-sharp intention, Chai creates layered multimedia programs which explore and unite elements of science, nature, fashion, and art. The New Yorker describes Chai as “a pianist whose dazzling facility is matched by her deep musicality.”
Chai’s instinctive understanding of new music is complemented by a deep grounding in core repertoire, with special affinity for Schumann, Scarlatti, Beethoven, Bach, Debussy, and Ravel. She is a noted interpreter of 20th-century masters Cage, Messiaen, and Ligeti, and her career is threaded through with strong relationships and close collaborations with a range of notable contemporary composers, including Tan Dun, Jarosław Kapuściński, Andy Akiho, Pamela Z, Lukas Ligeti, Cindy Cox, Annie Gosfield and György Kurtág. With a deft poetic touch, Chai weaves this wide-ranging repertoire into a gorgeous and lucid musical tapestry.Chai is also a vital champion and early tester of the groundbreaking synchronous score following software program, Antescofo. Developed at IRCAM by scientist Arshia Cont, the software offers a real time computer and animation response to live performance elements, enabling performers to create multimedia presentations of sophisticated and expressive fluency. Chai explored and helped hone Antescofo in residence at IRCAM alongside frequent collaborator Jarosław Kapuściński, and has since toured internationally with the software offering multimedia performances in Shanghai, New York, Havana, and elsewhere. In September 2019, Chai gave a TEDx Talk titled When Classical Music Meets Technology.
Other notable highlights include her 2012 Carnegie Hall recital debut; many performances at (le) Poisson Rouge, including a 2016 Antescofo-supported program, Where’s Chopin?; her 2018 Wigmore Hall debut with a program exploring the relation between color and sound; lectures and recitals at Shanghai Symphony Hall, Shanghai Concert Hall, and Shanghai Mercedes Benz Arena; a featured performance at Tan Dun’s International Music Medicine Festival in Qingdao; the Leo Brouwer Festival in Havana, Cuba; Philippe Manoury’s double-piano concerto, Zones de turbulences, at the Warsaw Autumn International Festival of Contemporary Music with duo partner, pianist Adam Kośmieja and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra; and much more.
Her immersive approach to music is also channeled into her work with FaceArt Institute of Music, the Shanghai-based organization she founded and runs, offering music education and an international exchange of music and musicians in China and beyond. In summer 2019, Chai oversees FaceArt’s first ever month-long Co-Creation Summer Festival, which invites International piano and composition faculty. Additionally, Chai served on the Board of Directors of the New York City-based contemporary music organization Ear to Mind, and has published a doctoral dissertation on Marco Stroppa’s Miniature Estrose which is collected by many schools including Stanford and Harvard University.
Chai has recorded for labels such as Divine Art, Deutschlandfunk, Naxos, ArpaViva and MSR. In 2010, she released her debut recording, New York Love Songs, featuring interpretations of works by Cage and Ives among others, and her most recent recording, (S)yn(e)sth(e)te, was released by MSR Records in 2017. She can also be heard on Michael Vincent Waller’s Five Easy Pieces and Cindy Cox’s Hierosgamos. In 2021, her newest album on Bach, Ives and Schumann Kreisleriana received positive reviews globally. The album was featured by Apple Music as one of its selected best Classical Music albums.
The recipient of the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust’s 2011 Pianist/Composer Commissioning Project, the DAAD Arts and Performance award in 2010, Chamber Music America commissioning award and first prize winner of the Keys to the Future Contemporary Solo Piano Festival, Jenny Q Chai studied at the Shanghai Music Conservatory, the Curtis Institute of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, and in Cologne University of Music and Dance. Her teachers include Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Seymour Lipkin, Solomon Mikowsky, Marilyn Nonken, and Anthony de Mare. As of 2022, Jenny Q Chai is a piano faculty member of the University of California Berkeley, an alumni mentor at Curtis Institute of Music and an official career mentor at Manhattan School of Music. In 2022, Chai became Fazioli Global Piano Ambassador.
Chai is a social activist who works passionately on environmental causes through her music and runs a personal animal shelter. She has rescued over one hundred small animals in China since the pandemic and is an active donor to many animal rescue organizations.