He’s only 25, but violinist Ray Chen made his Carnegie Hall debut last year. The Taiwan-born musician has displayed a pattern of achieving things early: He started playing at age 4 and four years later played solo with the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra in Australia, where he was raised.
Chen, who now lives in Philadelphia, has released three albums on Sony. The latest is devoted to the works of Mozart. This week, he performs the composer’s Violin Concerto No. 4 with the Phoenix Symphony.
Question: You have a reputation for attracting younger audiences. Is it just due to your age?
Answer: I do make a special effort to appeal to the younger audience by being very active in social media. Recently, I’ve been doing really short videos that are just funny and fun for me to make. It really fuels my imagination as an artist and it’s fun for people to watch.
Q: What does that do for you in terms of your audience?
A. I just love appealing to that crowd. I think it’s important to show people that classical musicians are real, but I always include the violin in my videos. I’m not just goofing off, being a comedian. I’m still trying to bring the violin in and gathering new audiences.
Q: You started studying very young. How did it begin?
A. It kind of started when I had a toy guitar and I put it underneath my chin when I was almost turning 4. I could have easily started the guitar, I suppose, but my parents put a violin in my hands.
Q: Did you always love the violin?
A: The appeal to me was my teachers, actually. It was a family of teachers — a mother, a father and a daughter — who taught from the Suzuki Method. Every Saturday, they would open up their home to 50 kids. It was marvelous. My fondest memory before I could actually play a piece was to sit in a circle and each person would take a turn and play for each other. No matter what, I wanted to volunteer to play something. It was just kind of exhilarating and exciting for me, and fun. That’s really important.
Q: There is a stereotype that child prodigies grow up to be socially awkward, because they have spent their life dedicated to their art. Is that accurate?
A: Classical music has a reputation for awkward musicians, and this stereotype didn’t just come from nowhere. But I think now, more and more, the young generation of artists out there, the people I’ve met, are all socially savvy. They are very good at talking to large groups of people for educational outreach and very active in community service.
Q: Do you listen to recordings you made when you were younger to see how you’ve grown?
A: Every month or so, I try to listen to just a little bit as objectively as I can to kind of gather my own feedback and compare myself as an artist. I like to see how I’ve changed and in what places. It’s very useful to check in with yourself and look in the mirror a little bit.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or 602-444-8849. Twitter.com/randy_cordova.
Ray Chen with the Phoenix Symphony
When: April 17-19. 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday; 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Symphony Hall, 75 N. Second St., Phoenix.
Details: 602-495-1999, phoenixsymphony.org.