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China's First Doctor of Music: Chen Zuohuang

Chen Zuohuang was born in 1947 in Shanghai. His family later moved to Gulangyu, an island in Southeast China's Fujian Province. The place is known throughout the country as the Island of Pianos.

"I began to get in touch with music soon after the founding of new China, said Chen. I was not born into a musician's family, but Gulongyu Island, where I spent my childhood, had a strong musical atmosphere. Most people there can play the piano. When I was very young, I often listened to others playing and developed a keen love of music. I began to study the piano myself."

A few years later, Chen enrolled at the secondary school affiliated with the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. Studying the piano, Chen became fascinated with conducting. During the Cultural Revolution, however, Chen was forced to give up his musical studies when he went to work in the countryside.

After the end of the Cultural Revolution, Chen studied conducting at the Central Conservatory of Music. Upon graduation in 1981, he went to the United States to pursue advanced studies. Chen received his master's degree at the Tanglewood Music Center and a PhD in music at the University of Michigan. Chen was China's first doctor of the musical arts.

In the following years, Chen served as artistic director and conductor for over 30 symphony orchestras around the world. Music critics praise Chen's work for its intense artistic charm; Chen has been recognized as one of Asia's most important conductors.

In 1996, Chen became the first artistic director and principal conductor of the China National Symphony Orchestra, which sprung up from the former Central Philharmonic Orchestra. The formation of the orchestra marked a significant step for the Ministry of Culture in reforming and restructuring State-level performing arts troupes. It was the first professional orchestra in China to adopt a contract system and a system of responsibility under the leadership of the artistic director to enhance the group's performance and management.

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