Doug Wang '23
Oliver Chen ’22, a three-year Senior from Nanjing, China, studies piano and is a Co-Head of Songs for Smiles. He received the 2020-2021 Upper Mid Music Prize.
What first introduced you to piano?
When I was four years old, I went to a few of Lang Lang’s recitals. I was completely mesmerized by his passion on stage and took the performances as my inspiration to learn to play the piano.
How has the school helped you grow as a musician?
Undoubtedly, Hotchkiss has one of the best music programs among private schools. We have great music facilities, such as Elfers Hall, and more importantly, very devoted music teachers. Over the past few years, Hotchkiss has also supported me to perform at Carnegie Hall and attend international piano competitions in Europe.
What is the best part about performing? What motivates you to keep pursuing piano?
The moment when I merge with my instrument and fully immerse myself in the music world is truly beautiful. At the same time, I also rejoice in communicating with my audiences through music. The beauty of music and the people who have supported me — my teachers, family, peers, and audiences — all motivate me to continue pursuing piano. In addition, I have been involved in charity concerts to help people, which also serves as a big motivation for me.
What are some of your thoughts on Lang Lang’s visit?
Although Lang Lang was playing a piece in the Baroque period, which made it hard for non-musicians to understand, he was able to influence everyone to sit quietly, listen to his music, and enjoy his performance. Mr. Fabio Witkowski, head of the visual and performing arts department, has also said that “I have never been to a concert at Elfers Hall that [was] this quiet.” It was really amazing to see Lang Lang’s power of bringing everyone together and having everyone appreciate classical music.
What is it like to have Lang Lang as your piano mentor?
I have known Lang Lang for 11 years. He is not only my mentor, but also my role model. His musical performance and passion for music are really inspiring to me. He is a big reason why I started playing the piano. Not only is he a great pianist, but he is also a great philanthropist that influences the world.
Have you ever encountered any challenges throughout your musical career?
When I attended my middle school, a public school in China, I was discouraged from playing piano. they had a traditional system of education where they focused on academics and restrained students from participating in extracurriculars like music and sports. So whenever I practiced piano, my teachers would stop me and make me do more academic problems. I found that difficult because piano is my passion, and it’s even part of my identity now. That was also a reason why I decided to attend school in the US,
What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing music?
Always make sure to take the initiative and practice with diligence to refine your music. This is the best way to fully utilize the resources that we are blessed with here at Hotchkiss.