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
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
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.