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UW Student Profiles: Meet Irene Chen

Submitted by Stephanie N. Welch on March 12, 2015 - 2:36pm

Irene Chen

Irene is a Taiwanese American from Redmond, Washington. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Piano Performance.

Why did you decide to study German?

My former piano teacher had studied music for several years in Vienna, Austria and inspired me to attend a summer piano master class there. After meeting some of her friends there as well as making some new friends during my stay in Vienna, I fell in love with the language and culture. While I was able to get by with English and some bits and pieces of German I had picked up around me, I thought it would be exciting to visit Vienna and Germany again one day and be able to converse smoothly with the people and friends I had met there.

What is your field of study?  How have you been able to connect the skills you have developed in German class to your other academic interests?

I had previously earned degrees in biochemistry and music, but now I am focusing on a master’s degree in Piano Performance. German is a very useful language to know when studying music, especially for a classically trained pianist. Learning German has allowed me to understand some musical markings, and even correct the pronunciation of singers when I accompany German Lieder.

What are your plans for the future and how will German play a role in helping you achieve your goals?

I hope to further broaden my experiences with piano by performing, collaborating with other instrumentalists or vocalists, and teaching students. In the future, I want to explore teaching in a classroom setting as a music educator in a school. As a supplement to my piano playing, studying German will enhance my knowledge of what the composer is trying to communicate in his or her notations in the musical score.

You are a very talented pianist and recently performed a few very innovative pieces from George Crumb's Makrokosmos.  Who is your favorite German composer and what is your favorite piece to play?  Why?

My favorite German composer is Beethoven and I enjoy playing his Piano Sonata Op. 101 in A Major. The intricate details and eloquent motifs that make up a Beethoven piano sonata strike me as incredibly moving and fascinating.  

What do you enjoy about learning German?

I like the way German sounds when it is spoken and I enjoy the mini dialogues we practice in class. German is often described as sounding harsh, but I agree with my professor that there is a musical lilt to the language.

Do you have a favorite German word or phrase?

One of my favorite German phrases is the expressive music term Gesangvoll, mit innigster Empfindung, which roughly translates to songful, with innermost sentiment/feeling.


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