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Readiness pays off for student-musician

Jennifer Chen was staring at a potential disaster 20 minutes before one of the biggest musical performances of her life.

The zipper on her dress was broken.

There was no time to return to her room and change: Chen would soon be taking the stage with her cello at the University’s Concerto and Aria Competition. Instead, Chen relied on the preparation and foresight that have made her a success both in and out of the classroom.

“I thought, ‘Wow. This is not one of the problems I would’ve foreseen right before going on stage,’” the senior said. “Fortunately, I had a backup outfit because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to wear the dress. It was a nerve-wracking half-hour. But I had practiced a lot, so I was confident I would be OK. I took five minutes to calm myself and get back into the mindset of a performer.”

Chen’s performance of Dvorak’s Concerto in B Minor, 1st movement won the string competition over 11 other musicians and earned the 20-year-old a solo in the University Symphony Orchestra concert on March 6. Other winners (and future soloists) were trumpet player Daniel Fein, tenor Michael Fries and pianist Jieun Jang.

Chen, a cello player for 12 years, had been preparing for the competition since falling short as a freshman in the event two years ago. Picking and practicing the Dvorak piece (“A big, romantic song,” she called it.) made a difference, Chen said.

“This is really special to me,” Chen said of her upcoming solo. “Music is a large part of my life and this is one of the biggest honors I could receive as a musician.”

Chen’s honors extend outside of the music halls. Last spring, the math and psychology double major won the President’s Award for Undergraduate Student Excellence. She also has worked as a math tutor and is a resident assistant in Oneida Hall.

Chen, from the Rochester suburb of Penfield, plans to attend graduate school, become a math teacher and work as a high school principal. She credits her time at Binghamton with helping her develop as a person.

“It was one of the best decisions I’ve made,” she said. “I’ve been able to grow in ways that I don’t think I would’ve been able to at other universities.”

Chen also wants to continue performing after graduation and said she is excited for what she believes will be a fun University Symphony Orchestra concert.

“Sometimes people get caught up in the competition and where they are sitting (on stage),” she said. “You should just enjoy the music and enjoy being part of it. When you do that, you get the most out of your experience.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08