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Q&A | 27 Questions For Ray Chen

By Ludwig Van on March 20, 2018

Ray Chen (Photo: Tom Doms)
The rising young violinist Ray Chen stops by Ludwig van Toronto to talk about life’s biggest mistakes, luckiest moments, and the best thing about being a concert violinist. (Photo: Tom Doms)

Taiwanese-Australian violinist Ray Chen initially caught our attention after winning first place in the Yehudi Menuhin (2008) and Queen Elizabeth (2009) Competitions. Since then he has grown in prominence as both a soloist and recording artist. He has recorded three critically acclaimed albums with Sony Classical, and last year signed to the prestigious UK label Decca Classics.

Chen has performed with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, Munich Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and the Pittsburgh Symphony. He has worked with works with conductors such as Riccardo Chailly, Vladimir Jurowski, Sakari Oramo, Manfred Honeck and many others.

Besides his career as a musician, he has also appeared in major online TV series “Mozart in the Jungle” and is currently designing his own line of violin cases for the instrument and accessories company Gewa.

He plays the 1715 “Joachim” Stradivarius violin on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation — an instrument originally owned by Joseph Joachim.

Ray will be performing with the Toronto Symphony on April 5, 7, and 8, for Sibelius Symphony 5.

— — — — —

Your favourite sound?

The sound of a light summer rain while being back at home in Australia.

Your least favourite sound?

The sound of disappointment from someone you love or respect.

Your favourite smells?

Freshly brewed coffee in the morning. Buttery truffle pasta at night.

Your least favourite smells?

Stinky feet. Smelly BO. Vomit. (Wow, that really killed the favourite smells from before.)

First thing that comes to your mind when you think about Toronto?

The cool skyline. Friendly people like Justin Trudeau. Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

The dumbest thing that you’ve ever done to your hair?

When I was 10 I wanted to get my hair cut like Arnold Schwarzenegger from The Terminator. Except on my round face instead of looking badass, I looked like a friendly porcupine.

The three books that you read that made an impact on you in your formative years?


Lord of Flies

The Harry Potter series

Whose musical style do you covet?

I really enjoy listening to pianist Murray Perrahia play Beethoven and Bach.

Where was the last place you travelled to for work or pleasure?

Every week is a different city, sometimes more. With around 100 concerts a year it’s hard to keep track. Today I’m flying from Berlin to Stuttgart.

What is your biggest phobia?

That I’ll suddenly forget how to play the violin during one of my concerts.

The strangest talent that you possess?

It’s not that weird but most people don’t know that I can beatbox pretty well.

Shoe of choice?

Everyone is going for the casual chic look (the dressy trainers) and Cole Haan right now has a pretty awesome collection.

Your major character flaw?

Speaking to people as if they were your equal: the funny thing about this policy is that the longer you stick to it, people view you as being more humble as you age and become important. The CEO who speaks to the intern as an equal is viewed as a great person, but the 2nd-grade kid who speaks to their elders in the same way is just plain snotty.

The character flaw in others that you can’t abide?


How do you know when you can trust someone?

Depends how heavy your secret is.

What was the luckiest moment in your life?

I once won one of those 1000 ticket jackpots in the arcade. I couldn’t decide what to exchange my tickets for so I brought them all home as a memento instead.

What was the unluckiest moment in your life?

All the hours spent in the practice room. Don’t need luck there.

What are you the most proud of?

My sister graduated this year and started working as a medical doctor!

What are you the least proud of?

That I have a video game addiction where my career remains intact only by the fact that I have to leave my consoles at home to go on tour. I have a PlayStation 4, XboxOne, and Nintendo Switch…

The biggest mistake you’ve ever made?

It’s not a mistake if you learn from it. That’s called experience.

What is the best thing about your work?

The travel.

What is the worst thing about your work?

The travel.

The relatively normal piece of clothing that you believe you’d look the most ridiculous in?

A vest. I look like a valet or a magician when I wear one.

The talent that you wish you possessed?

I wished I could do sleight of hand magic.

What musical instrument do you secretly long to play?

I wish I could sing better.

What sport did you give up and why?

When I was 12, I signed up for basketball tryouts. My then violin teacher told me that if I didn’t quit, she would stop teaching me.

What is the game that you’re best at?



Ludwig Van
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