The New Asia Chamber Music Society (NACMS) is a classical group committed to bringing audiences exceptional performances of the chamber music repertoire, infusing contemporary Asian culture into the canon of western classical music. Founded in 2010, the organization has since been hailed by New York Concert Reviews as “an impressively organized and professional group… comprised of many young and gifted players”.
TAP-NY had the chance to speak with Taiwanese American NACMS co-founders and musicians Andy Lin and Nan-Cheng Chen after their recent season opening concert.
NACMS Executive Director and cellist Nan-Cheng Chen currently is a doctoral candidate and adjunct professor at CUNY Queens College. Born in Taiwan, he is known for his “beautiful tone” and has been featured on NPR, among many other accomplishments.
NACMS Artistic Director, violist and erhuist Andy Lin was born in Kaohsiung and currently performs for various musical groups. Among a long list of accomplishments, he has performed for Bill Clinton and former President of Taiwan Ten-Hui Lee.
How did your musical journey get started?
Nan-Cheng: When I was young, my dad was always busy at work, and my mom focused on raising me. I had a lot of tutors for things like swimming, chinese chess, writing, ping-pong, etc. Among those, I started cello and piano when I was 5. I was doing well judging by the competitions I won, and one day when I was 12, my parents asked me if I wanted to be a serious musician.
Andy: I have an older sister who started the piano when she was 4. When she was practicing the piano, my mom would hold me in her arms and I would be holding a stick, whenever my sister made a mistake, I would “lightly” “wave” the stick, and that’s when my parents thought maybe I had talent in music – and in a few years, they started my music lessons with my aunt.
What’s been your most memorable experience in your musical career?
Nan-Cheng: This is a difficult question to answer – there were many performances that I am quite fond of, although I know my playing can always be improved. Whether it’s my personal feeling of accomplishment or good feedback from an audience member, I always put 100% of my energy and passion on stage. If one person out of a hundred was able to connect with me through the music that I am making, that to me is a sign of success. There are also lessons with my teachers in which I was absolutely astounded and inspired though conversations and sharing of musical feelings and knowledge. Finally, every time when I am able to make a note, a phrase, a piece more beautifully than ever before, I am very grateful about it.
Andy: For me, almost every time performing on the stage is memorable. But there are a few especially: one was the opportunity to perform with legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman during my master’s year. It was my first time performing with one of the most famous violinists in the world, especially since I grew up listening to his recordings! I was very nervous in the first rehearsal. I’m sure he knew how I was feeling, and he was able to make me feel comfortable with his humor and music. Just being able to listen to him and play with him in the same room changed me as a musician – I felt like I grew and matured musically and mentally.
In your words – what is New Asia Chamber Music Society?
Nan-Cheng: For musicians, New Asia CMS is a place for them to meet each other and exchange musical ideas. Their individual performance ability is extremely high, but to make great chamber music takes a higher level of sensitivity and communication that one cannot get through practice in a practice room. For our audience and the community, it’s a chance to experience a high level of musical art in a private chamber setting. The audience is also part of the show, and how they participate has a direct influence on the performer and how they make music.
Andy: New Asia CMS is an organization that’s formed by a group of young virtuosi, who share the same passion of classical music and Asian art. We believe the future of performing arts is not only music itself, but it will be a performance in combination with different art forms, such as dance and visual art. We also seek to build the bridge between different cultures, combining western classical music with contemporary Asian art.
What’s your favorite memory of Taiwan?
Nan-Cheng: My Taiwan visits have always been my pleasure, and involve lots of food, meeting genuine people, and music making. On my recent visits last year, I taught classes at two university level music departments, and worked with a national level professional orchestras. I will be back again this July to teach in National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra’s summer music program and meet the young talents there. I am excited for that.
Andy: My favorite memory of Taiwan besides family would be my elementary school classmates! We grew up together and are still in touch. Every time I go back to Taiwan, they make time for me. During Chinese New Year, they will have a gathering and FaceTime me to take a group photo. They are and will always be the best memory of my time in Taiwan. And of course, there is the night market which I miss very much!
Can you describe each other in one sentence?
Nan-Cheng: Andy is an extremely dedicated musician and has a big heart for everyone he meets. Did I mention he was the first person I met when I came to the U.S. at age of 12? He was sent as my big bother to take care of me as I spoke not a single word of English. We later re-united at Juilliard. I am glad he’s my partner for New Asia CMS. He also mixes good drinks.
Andy: Nan-Cheng is my long-term younger brother whom I’ve known ever since he was 12, and he is very passionate and dedicated to music and cello.
Images credit to respective photographers. Header image (c) Kevin Wong for TAP-NY.