Sean Chen & Karen Joy Davis with Saket Navlakha

February 12, 2017



Sean Chen and Karen Joy Davis with Saket Navlakha

Sean Chen

Hailed as a charismatic rising star with “an exceptional ability to connect with an audience combined with an easy virtuosity” (Huffington Post), 28-year old pianist Sean Chen, third prize winner at the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and 2013 DeHann Classical Fellow of the American Pianists Association, continues to earn accolades for his “alluring, colorful renditions” (The New York Times) and “genuinely sensitive playing” (The Los Angeles Times). Chen was recently named a 2015 Fellow by the prestigious Leonore Annenberg Fellowship for the Performing Arts.

Chen has performed with many prominent orchestras, including the Ft. Worth, Hartford, Hudson Valley, Indianapolis, Knoxville, Milwaukee, North Carolina, Pasadena, Phoenix, San Diego, Santa Fe, Tucson and New West symphonies, as well as the Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and South Bay chamber orchestras, collaborating with such esteemed conductors as Leonard Slatkin, Gerard Schwarz, Nicholas McGegan, Miguel Harth-Bedoya Marcelo Lehninger, Nir Kabaretti, James Judd, George Hanson and Boris Brott. Solo recitals have taken him to major venues worldwide, including Jordan Hall in Boston, Subculture in New York City, the American Art Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, the National Concert Hall in Taipei, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the Salle Cortot in Paris.

As a result of his relationship with both orchestral musicians and audience members, Chen has been making return appearances with several orchestras, including the San Diego, Santa Fe and Carmel symphonies, and the Sunriver Music Festival Orchestra. He will also be traveling across the United States for solo and chamber recitals, including concerts in Chicago, Denver, Louisville and Los Angeles. Lauded for his natural charisma and approachable personality, Chen is particularly in demand for residencies that combine performances with master classes.

Chen has been featured in both live and recorded performances on WQXR (New York), WFMT (Chicago), WGBH (Boston), WFYI (Indianapolis), NPR’s From the Top and American Public Media’s Performance Today. Additional media coverage includes a profile featured on the cover of Clavier Companion in May 2015, recognition as “One to Watch” by International Piano Magazine in March 2014, and inclusion in WFMT’s “30 under 30.”

His recent CD releases include La Valse, a solo recording on the Steinway label, hailed for “penetrating artistic intellect” (Audiophile Audition); a live recording from the Cliburn Competition, released by Harmonia Mundi, praised for “ravishing tone and cogently contoured lines” (Gramophone), and an album of Michael Williams’ solo piano works on the Parma label.

A multi-faceted musician, Chen also transcribes, composes and improvises. His transcription of Ravel’s La Valse has been received with glowing acclaim, and his encore improvisations are lauded as “genuinely brilliant” (The Dallas Morning News). An advocate of new music, he has also collaborated with several composers and performed their works, including Lisa Biewala, Michael Williams, Nicco Athens, Michael Gilbertson, and Reinaldo Moya.

Born in Florida, Chen grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of Oak Park, California. His impressive achievements before college include the NFAA ARTSweek, Los Angeles Music Center’s Spotlight and 2006 Presidential Scholar’s awards. After receiving offers of acceptance from MIT, Harvard and The Juilliard School, Chen made the choice to study music, earning his bachelor and master of music degrees from Juilliard and an Artist Diploma from the Yale School of Music. His teachers included Hung-Kuan Chen, Tema Blackstone, Edward Francis, Jerome Lowenthal and Matti Raekallio.

When not at the piano, Chen enjoys tinkering with computers.

Karen Joy Davis

A native of the Washington, DC area, Karen Joy Davis made her debut with the National Symphony Orchestra playing the Mozart Concerto K.467 when she was 12. After attending high school at Interlochen Arts Academy and North Carolina School of the Arts, she continued her piano studies at The Juilliard School, during which time she won numerous awards, including first prize at the National Society of Arts and Letters Competition as well as the Bartok Competition, the Baldwin Competition and the Inter-American Festival Competition. She was also a finalist in the Naumburg Foundation Competition and the Clara Haskil International Piano Competition.

Davis studied with Ylda Novik, Irwin Freundlich, Arminda Canteros and with two former students of Artur Schnabel: Maria Curcio (in London) and the renowned pianist Leon Fleisher. She has performed in recital and with orchestras throughout the US, Canada, South America and Europe at such venues as the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Heinz Hall, Wigmore Hall, the Strathmore Center, TRSI and the Kravis Center. She has appeared as a soloist with the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, the Fairfax Symphony, the Washington Chamber Orchestra, the McLean Symphony, the National Symphony, Orchestre National de Toulouse, Orquestra de Camara Fortaleza, the Sao Paulo Symphony and the Redlands Symphony. On the occasion of her London debut, The London Times declared her “a pianist to reckon with…played with sparking brilliance and technical accuracy and displayed a profound musical understanding.”

Davis is also an avid chamber music player, and has performed at numerous festivals around the world, including the Aspen Festival, Spoleto festival, Friends of the Arts Beethoven Festival and the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, among others. From 2003-2006, she played with the prominent Tango group Quintango, and in 2013 and 2014, she was featured in the well-received programs about Chopin and Schumann on WFMT Chicago produced by Jon Tolansky. Davis participates in the Juilliard National Council and is the Executive Producer of the Salk Science & Music Series.

Saket Navlakha
Assistant Professor
Integrative Biology Laboratory

Saket Navlakha is an assistant professor in the Center for Integrative Biology. He develops algorithms to understand the interactions, dynamics and evolution of large, noisy and complex biological networks. Dr. Navlakha also studies “algorithms in nature” — for example, how groups of molecules, cells and organisms communicate and process information to collectively solve computational problems. By comparing and contrasting biological and human engineered systems, he is developing new bio-inspired computing algorithms and new holistic perspectives on biological function.