Third Grader Valentina Chen Is All in for Violin!
Third Grader Valentina Chen Is All in for Violin! is Sixth Grade sister Maxine

At a recent PDS reception in the Anne Reid '72 Art Gallery for the Lower School student art exhibit, third grader Val Chen wowed attendees with a passionate and superbly executed solo performance. Since then, we've learned that Val began studying violin at age four when she was in the Reception year (PreK) at Dulwich College, Shanghai. After watching her big sister, 6th grader Maxine Chen, studying the violin for a couple of years, Val naturally gravitated toward it as well. While in Shanghai, Val studied with her school strings teacher, who was trained at the Royal Academy of Music, UK. Very quickly, Val proved adept at the violin, rapidly improving her skills, rising to soloist at school concerts, and even helping other children learn the instrument in strings classes. Last year as a 2nd grader in Shanghai she played alongside upper schoolers in the orchestra and in two string ensembles.

Soon after the family moved to New Jersey last summer, both Val and Maxine began lessons with some excellent teachers in the area. Currently, Val and her sister Maxine study with a Princeton-based teacher weekly and go to New York City on Sundays for a special lesson with a well-known concert violinist, Ryu Goto, Midori's brother. At PDS, "Val gets lots of encouragement from Dr. Rzeczycki and loves playing in his Wednesday morning chamber group," says Val's mother, Youmi.

Val genuinely loves playing violin and has developed her own way of having fun while practicing. According to Youmi, "Val walks around, entertaining us, often improvising pieces by changing notes and rhythms of her current pieces!" Val practices daily for about an hour on school days and an additional hour or so in weekends.

This past November, Val entered two competitions, Crescendo International Music Competition and Elite International Music Competition, and was chosen to perform at both winners' recitals at Carnegie Hall, on January 12 for Crescendo and February 24 for Elite. Maxine also performed as a winning soloist in the Elite recital. In addition, Maxine recently auditioned for CJMEA and was accepted into Chamber Orchestra. You'll surely be hearing a lot more from the Chen sisters!

- Melanie Shaw

Photos: At top, Val Chen performs in Carnegie Hall on February 24 in the Elite Winners Recital. Above, 6th grader Maxine Chen also performs her solo at the concert on February 24 in Carnegie Hall. Photos courtesy Dana Benner.