“[Tong Chen] masterfully presented the Mendelssohn’s Fifth Symphony,” described the Leipzig Times. A prizewinner of the prestigious International Malko Conducting Competition, Tong Chen has quickly established herself as one of the most promising and exciting young conductors of her generation.
In 2020–21, Chen made her debut with the Louisiana Philharmonic, conducting a program which included the world premiere of Ellis Marsalis’ The Fourth Autumn arranged by Hannah Yim. 2019–20 season highlights include Chen’s debuts with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Philharmonic and Rutgers Symphony Orchestra, the latter featuring a program that included the world premiere of Allen Shawn’s Concerto for Clarinet and Cello, one of the last pieces commissioned by Benny Goodman. She also returned to the Los Angeles Philharmonic to work with Gustavo Dudamel and to assist Iván Fisher with Budapest Festival Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl.
Chen has worked with numerous orchestras across the globe, including the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo, Mikkelin Kaupunginorkesteri, Besançon Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig Symphony Orchestra, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Charleston Symphony Orchestra and Richmond Symphony Orchestra. In 2015, she made her Lincoln Center debut at David H. Koch Theater with the Paul Taylor Dance Company and Orchestra of St. Luke’s.
Born in Shanghai, China, Chen is also a regular guest conductor with orchestras throughout China, including the Shanghai Philharmonic, Xia Men Philharmonic, Qing Dao Symphony Orchestra, Guang Zhou Symphony Orchestra and Shanghai Opera House, where she worked as assistant conductor from 2004–09.
Chen’s primary studies were with Gustav Meier at the Peabody Conservatory, where she received her master’s degree in conducting; with Maurice Peress at the Copland School of Music at Queens College in New York City; and at the Shanghai Conservatory. She attended the Aspen Music Festival, where she worked with David Zinman as well as the Cabrillo Festival, where she studied with Marin Alsop. Chen was also a protégé of the former music director of the New York Philharmonic, Kurt Masur, and was awarded the Mendelssohn Scholarship in 2012, which allowed her to study the music of Mendelssohn and serve as the assistant conductor for Masur at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig.
This season marks Chen’s sixth anniversary as music director of the Yonkers Philharmonic Orchestra. Chen is a strong believer that music is an important connection to bring people and the community together; during her first year as the music director of YPO she introduced a Beethoven Festival which sold out five years in a row. Due to the global pandemic in the 2020–21 season, she created YPO@Home, an online streaming music program to bring music to the community. Chen also started an online rehearsal and education program for local musicians and music students.
An avid advocate of education, Chen taught orchestral conducting and led the Copland School of Music orchestral program from 2012–18. Summer 2019 marked her second year as the director of the Queens College Conductor’s workshop, founded by Maurice Peress in 2010. Additionally, she is a regular guest conductor at the Manhattan School of Music and Montclair State University, with the Mannes Pre-College Orchestra as well as with numerous All-State Youth Orchestras in New York State, and she is a guest lecturer at Shanghai Conservatory of Music.
Chen lives in Jersey City with her family and a dog named Kimi.