Chen Yi

From Wind Repertory Project
Chen Yi


Chen Yi (b. 1953, Guangzhou, China) is a Chinese-American composer.

She holds BA and MA degrees in music composition from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, and DMA from Columbia University in the City of New York, studying composition with Wu Zuqiang, Chou Wen-chung and Mario Davidovsky.

As a distinguished professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music & Dance, a prolific composer and recipient of the Ives Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Dr. Chen blends Chinese and Western traditions, transcending cultural and musical boundaries. Her music has reached a wide range of audiences and has inspired peoples with different cultural background throughout the world. She has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005.

Published by Theodore Presser Company, Chen's music has been commissioned by Yehudi Menuhin, Yo-Yo Ma, Evelyn Glennie, the Cleveland Orchestra, the BBC, Seattle, Pacific, and Singapore Symphonies, The Brooklyn, New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Rascher Sax Quartet & Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke's, and recorded on many labels.

Dr. Chen has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation (1996) and the National Endowment for the Arts (1994), as well as the Lieberson Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1996). Other honors include first prize from the Chinese National Composition Contest (1985), Lili Boulanger Award (1993), NYU Sorel Medal Award (1996), CalArts / Alpert Award (1997), UT Eddie Medora King Composition Prize (1999), ASCAP Concert Music Award (2001), Elise Stoeger Award (2002) from Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Friendship Ambassador Award from Edgar Snow Fund (2002), UMKC Kauffman Award in Artistry/Scholarship (2006) and in Faculty Service (2012), and honorary doctorates from Lawrence University in Wisconsin (2002), Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio (2008), University of Portland in Oregon(2009), and The New School University in New York City (2010).

Chen Yi was the first woman to receive a master’s degree in composition in China (June 1986) when she gave an evening concert of her orchestral works in Beijing, performed by the Central Philharmonic of China. She is also the first woman to give an evening multimedia orchestral concert in the U.S. during her three-year residency with The Women's Philharmonic and Chanticleer (May 1996), supported by Meet the Composer. She has given two more whole evening concerts of her orchestral and choral works presented by the China National Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in 2001 and 2008, and was appointed to the Cheungkong Scholar Visiting Professor at the Central Conservatory by the China Education Ministry in 2006, and the Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Tianjin Conservatory in 2012.

Most recent premieres include a wind ensemble version of her saxophone quartet concerto Ba Yin by the Prism Quartet and UMKC Wind Ensemble directed by Prof. Steve Davis at Helzberg Hall in Kauffman Center (10/4/2015); a mixed choral work The Beautiful West Lake for University Singers directed by Prof. Paul Crabb in UM-Columbia (10/24/2015); a solo percussion work entitled Colors of Naobo (2015) by Evelyn Glennie for her 50th birthday at Edinburgh Festival in the UK; Thinking of My Home for treble clef choir (2015) by Frontier Trail Middle School (Kansas) Choir, commissioned by the American Composers Forum in its ChoralQuest series; Three Dances From China South for Chinese traditional instrumental ensemble (2014) to celebrate Music From China’s 30th anniversary at Weill Hall in Carnegie Hall (with 2013 Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program Award); Not Alone for saxophone quartet (2014) by Prism Sax Quartet and Naini Chen Dance Company in New York City (New Music USA Dance Music Commissioning Award); Northern Scenes for piano solo (2013) by Susan Chan at Portland State University; Chinese Rap for violin and orchestra (2013) by Helen Kim and Kennesaw (Georgia) State University Symphony Orchestra; and Shuo Chang for guitar solo (2013) by Xuefei Yang at Wigmore Hall in London.

Works for Winds


  • "Chen Yi," American Composers Forum. Web. Accessed 7 January 2021
  • Chen Yi, personal correspondence, October 2015
  • "Chen Yi." Theodore Presser. Web.
  • The Horizon Leans Forward..., compiled and edited by Erik Kar Jun Leung, GIA Publications, 2021, p. 288.
  • McCutcheon, Russell. "Dragon Rhyme." In Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 9, edit. & comp. by Richard Miles, 885-893. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2013.