Jonathan: More Than Piano

Jonathan Chen ‘22 has been playing piano since he was 7, and for him, it’s more than a hobby. It’s a lifestyle.

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Jonathan: More Than Piano

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It is a cool, mid-September day, when a seven year old boy, encouraged by his parents, calmly strolls into West Music. Little does he know, his life will be changed after he walks through those doors, setting him down a path of music making. That boy is Jonathan Chen, ‘22. Why does Chen play? “It is just a fact of life”, he says. He plays “because it is a way of self expression.”

Chen has been playing piano since he was seven years old, and he is definitely not your average pianist, as he practices 3 or more hours every day—even on weekends. He is a 3 time national qualifier, and continues to compete in many competitions, including IMTA, Chopin, MTNA and more.

Before competitions, Chen says he prepares by running through the music in his head. When he enters the stage, he says that he is nervous, but only his legs are shaking, not his hands. “After I’m done performing, I’m definitely tired, but the nerves will still sometimes kick in”, Chen said about performing.

Chen also plays saxophone, competing and succeeding in both. “Music makes me feel whatever the feeling of the piece of music itself is,” Chen said.

When you observe his playing, his fingers fly across the keys while his body bends back and forth with the rhythm. His arms roll to the slurs and jump to the staccatos. He leans in, the music getting softer and softer, then suddenly, His body flies up and the music is one again in full echo.

Besides piano, Chen is into STEM clubs, like the NorthWest Junior High STEM and West High JETS, where his team of went on to nationals and won 2 categories. Currently, he is doing Science Olympiad and Math Club, and plans to join JETS, the West High STEM club once it begins.
However, for Chen, his first priority is piano.

When Chen’s fingers start gliding across those keys, those that listen immediately begin to feel like you are in the piece, feeling the emotions of the composer. You feel all the vivid highs, lows, ups, and downs as though your soul is the music. All the while, it seems like his body is the rhythm, constantly bobbing to the beat. “Jonathan is very dedicated to his music and development as a pianist. He sets high standards for himself. He’s willing to perfect each piece of music. Jonathan is always well prepared for his lessons. He has a wonderful and respectful attitude”, says Chen’s coach.

“Jonathan is very dedicated to his music and development as a pianist. He sets high standards for himself. He’s willing to perfect each piece of music. Jonathan is always well prepared for his lessons. He has a wonderful and respectful attitude”, says Chen’s coach.

“Jonathan is very dedicated to his music and development as a pianist. He sets high standards for himself. He’s willing to perfect each piece of music. Jonathan is always well prepared for his lessons. He has a wonderful and respectful attitude”, says Chen’s coach.”

— Feilin Lin

Chen plans to pursue Math at Rice University. He will take some lessons from his lengthy piano career, like persistence, to keep with him for the rest of his life. Chen advises young, budding musicians not to get hung up on how naturally gifted they are or aren’t. “Even if you naturally suck at music,” Chen said, “constant and effective practice can always negate that, and will push you past those who don’t practice, gifted or not.”

Chen, playing Frederic Chopin’s Heroic Polonaise Op 53.

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