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August 4, 2010

Baltimore Symphony assistant conductor Mei-Ann Chen gets Chicago post

Mei-Ann Chen, we hardly knew ye.

Although she was the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's assistant conductor for the past year year, most concert-goers never got a chance to experience her music-making here. Chen was largely confined to children's programs and serving as cover conductor; she never led a subscription program. But she has definitely caught the attention of the music world.

Chen, 37, has just been named music director of the Chicago Sinfonietta, a dynamic ensemble known for the extraordinary ethnic and cultural diversity of its personnel, programming and guest artists. She succeeds Paul Freeman, who founded the Sinfonietta in 1987 and will step down after the 2010-2011 season. Freeman describes Chen as "an amazing talent and a real presence on the podium."

The Taiwan-born Chen, the first woman to win the Malko International Conductors Competition in 2005 and the 2007 recipient of the Taki Concordia Fellowship (founded by BSO music director Marin Alsop), will be kept busy beyond Chicago. In September, she begins her initial three-year tenure as music director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.


Posted by Tim Smith at 8:59 AM | | Comments (1)


It's so great to see more women conductors emerging from the woodwork. I think Marin has laid a romping foundation! I'll keep my eye on this one for sure!

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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