Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chicago Sun-Times: 'New director Mei-Ann Chen a perfect fit for Sinfonietta'

[Mei-Ann Chen]

Chicago Sun-Times

By Andrew Patner August 15, 2011

Mei-Ann Chen

In taking the reins of any group, it’s rarely easy to follow a founder. You might think things would be even more difficult for a young Asian woman in becoming only the second music director in the 25-year history of the Chicago Sinfonietta, a group started in part to advance African Americans in classical music. But Sunday evening at the Pritzker Pavilion, Taiwanese-born Mei-Ann Chen made the transition seem as natural as a beautiful summer day in Millennium Park.

Chen, 38, has led the Sinfonietta before to strong positive responses, two years ago as a part of her audition, and last season as a part of the baton passing from founder Paul Freeman, whom Chen calls 'my wonderful musical hero.' But this was the her first real chance to say hello to Chicago from the podium.

After seeing and hearing her talk to an audience, vamp, crack wise and move about the stage to greet soloists with genuine enthusiasm, it’s clear that, along with her strong musical abilities, Chen has real people skills, non-threatening self-confidence and a serious understanding of the Sinfonietta’s mission as 'a national model for inclusiveness and innovation.'”

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