Though audiences may know her from previous ROCO appearances, there are a few fun tidbits we discovered – such as the unexpected career she might have if she weren’t a musician.
Read on to learn more about Mei-Ann (and to find out which two Houston restaurants you should add to your “to visit” list!)
Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born and grew up in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, which now hosts the largest arts complex in the world, WeiWuYing, since 2018.
Where did you go to school for music studies?
I studied at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston for my Bachelor’s degree in Violin and also Master’s degrees in Conducting and Violin. Then I received my Doctorate of Music in Conducting from the University of Michigan (Go BLUE!)
When did you know you wanted to be a professional musician?
At age 10 when I played in the orchestra for the first time as a violinist – I was inspired and determined to become a professional conductor so I could play the “largest instrument”!
What’s the most memorable concert you’ve ever attended?
Donald Runnicles conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in a performance of Brahms’ German Requiem with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus (I was the Assistant Conductor with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra then and knew many of the chorus members personally – it made me so proud as an American to witness the Berlin audience applauding for them as long as 10 to 15 minutes, until the last chorus member exited the stage!)
What are your favorite things to eat, or drink? Do you have any favorite restaurants in Houston?
My favorite food is Taiwanese street food, and favorite drink is elderflower-flavored sparkling water from Austria. Favorite restaurants in Houston so far are Yauatcha (for special Dim Sum dishes) and Huynh for Vietnamese cuisine.
What are your favorite books, or movies?
I love to read any detective stories by Agatha Christie. My favorite movies are those with animals being the focus, such as Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog, or those with lots of action sequences, such as Mission: Impossible. (Wish I could be a secret agent, but don’t think it will happen in this lifetime!)
Do you have any pets, and what kind?
I grew up with three dogs, many birds, and even an owl! With my traveling schedule, I’m not able to keep pets right now, but I love to follow cute baby pandas and baby polar bears around the world online, and of course Fiona, the most adorable baby hippo born at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2017!
What career would you love to have if you were not a musician?
Definitely to be a detective (if I could overcome the shortcoming of fainting on seeing real blood at a crime scene!)
What do you love most about your career as a conductor?
Conducting has brought me to places, and to meet people, I never thought possible growing up in Taiwan.
What year was your first concert with ROCO?
In 2011, ROCO was one of the first groups to have invited me to be a guest conductor as I was wrapping up my Assistantship with the Baltimore Symphony.
What’s your favorite ROCO moment?
Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 was on my first program with ROCO – I had never seen such excited, beaming faces on stage as we rehearsed a work considered very well known in the repertoire…it was a moment I fell in love with ROCO, because everyone was in it for the love of music and for sharing their passion with others!
What does ROCO mean to you (in 3 words)?
BOLD, FUN, and UNIQUE!!
See conductor Mei-Ann Chen in her historic debut as ROCO’s first-named Artistic Partner – in ROCO In Concert: Time For Hope, on Friday, September 27, 2019 at Miller Outdoor Theatre, 8:00 pm (free admission), and Saturday, September 28, 2019, 5:00 pm, at The Church of St. John the Divine. Tickets available at roco.org, or at the door.