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The Journal Gazette

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Chia-Hsuan Lin, the newest assistant conductor for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, will lead the orchestra in the concert “Musical Storytelling.”

Wednesday, December 02, 2015 8:18 am

Bringing energy to an orchestra

Keiara Carr The Journal Gazette

It started the day Chia-Hsuan (pronounced Jeh-shu-an) Lin, about 3 years old, was watching a pianist perform on TV. 

"I was so fascinated by the playing. And I said, ‘Mom, I want to do this.’ " Lin juts her arms out in front of her and quickly flutters her fingers across the imaginary piano keys.

"That ended up with piano lessons. I sat on the piano bench for 10 minutes, my little legs hanging. And after 10 minutes at the piano, I said, ‘All right, I’m done. Thank you,’" she starts, laughing.

Of course, she wasn’t done. It was only the beginning of where music would take Fort Wayne Philharmonic’s new assistant conductor.

Lin will make her Fort Wayne debut with the Philharmonic on Sunday as she conducts the "Musical Storytelling" concert for the STAR Family concert series. The concert will feature the premiere of violinist Kristine Papillon’s children’s story, "Crumpet the Trumpet," as well as the premiere of "The Journey of Johnny Tin Cap," a story written by Christopher Murphy and music by Philharmonic bass player Adrian Mann.

This is Lin’s first full-time position as a conductor, replacing former assistant conductor Sameer Patel.

As she takes a seat among the empty rows inside IPFW’s Auer Performance Hall, the 29-year-old says she’s more excited than nervous to see concertgoers fill the hall Sunday.

"I like to bring energy and enthusiasm into the orchestra," she says. "I think it energizes everybody, and it gives the concert a lot of energy, and it makes playing music more interesting."

Training in piano at such an early age, Lin, who grew up in Taipei, Taiwan, says music seems to be attached to many of her memories as she grew up.

"My mom loves singing, and my grandfather used to play a two-string instrument called the erhu. He would play and sing to entertain us, the neighbors or himself," she says. "All of my family speaks Hakkanese, so he would sing some Hakkanese-dialect mountain songs, and although it’s not Western music, that image of him singing happily just really touched me and has always been in my memory."

At the age of 9, Lin transitioned from piano to percussion in grade school, where she participated in a music program. The students were instructed to pick a minor instrument, and she picked the drum after finding a picture of herself as a baby, tapping on a milk can.

"I guess at the age of 1, it had already been determined," she says.

It certainly appeared that way. Lin performed with the renowned Taipei Percussion Group from 2003 to 2010; she studied percussion at National Taiwan Normal University, receiving her bachelor’s degree in 2007.

However, Lin’s plans changed by the fall after graduation. Her wrist was broken and her liver damaged in a car accident. 

Remaining in the hospital until her liver healed and with her wrist in a cast, she was not able to audition by the spring for any graduate programs. 

"It was a life-changing moment for me," she says. "I wanted to study percussion in the States and right before I applied for graduate school, I got in a car accident. I had some choices – I could do musicology, music education or conducting back at my school. I picked conducting because I still wanted to share (the music). For me, that is so important."

"I guess that’s why I’m so excited about everything. Even when I was in the hospital, I never thought it’s not going to work out," she adds. 

After finishing her graduate degree in conducting at National Taiwan Normal University, Lin traveled to the United States to study with Harold Farberman as a fellow of the Conductor Institute at Bard College in New York. She continued her conducting studies at University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, where she earned her master’s in orchestral conducting; she also served as the music director for the University of Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. 

In 2012, Lin received the Foreign Study Award for Music from the Taiwan Education Bureau to begin her doctoral degree with Victor Yampolsky at Northwestern University in Illinois.

Last summer, Lin was one of three students selected for Yampolsky’s Emerging Conductor Program, where she conducted the Peninsula Music Festival Orchestra.

"Coming from a performer’s side is very helpful. I know that as a percussion player in the back of the orchestra, sometimes it’s really hard to communicate with the conductor," she says. "My idea of conducting is always try to communicate – that’s the first thing. You want to help the entire orchestra communicate with me and with each other."  

Joining the Philharmonic midseason, the schedule is set for the rest of the year, but Lin says that she and music director Andrew Constantine have discussed "new, fresh stuff" for next season. 

He also provided her with some simple words of advice. 

"Just be open. Embrace different music, embrace different styles, and embrace different repertoires," she says. "Fort Wayne Philharmonic gives me so many opportunities as an assistant conductor. You get to engage deeply with the community because we have family concerts, we have Pops, and we have Andrew Constantine on Masterworks. There’s such a variety in the repertoire and that’s very exciting."