Praised for her dynamic, passionate conducting style, Taiwanese American conductor Mei-Ann Chen is acclaimed for infusing orchestras with energy, enthusiasm and high-level music-making, galvanizing audiences and communities alike. Music director of the MacArthur Award-winning Chicago Sinfonietta since 2011, Chen has been chief conductor of Austria’s recreation – Grosses Orchester Graz at Styriarte since fall 2021, following two seasons as the orchestra’s first-ever principal guest conductor, making her the first female Asian conductor to hold this position with an Austrian orchestra. Since 2019, she has served as the first-ever artistic partner of Houston’s ROCO (River Oaks Chamber Orchestra) and became an artistic partner with Washington state's Northwest Sinfonietta in fall 2022. Highly regarded as a compelling communicator and an innovative leader both on and off the podium, and a sought-after guest conductor, Chen continues to expand her relationships with orchestras worldwide (over 120 orchestras to date).
Chen’s 2022-23 season engagements include—in addition to her duties with Chicago Sinfonietta 35th anniversary, Austria’s recreation – Grosses Orchester Graz at Styriarte, Texas’ ROCO, and Washington’s Northwest—debuts with Germany’s Staatsorchester Darmstadt, Orchestra national Capitole Toulouse (her France debut), and in the U.S. with the Rochester and Buffalo philharmonic orchestras, and the Hawaii Symphony. She steps in last-minute for Marin Alsop with Minnesota Orchestra for its 2022 New Year’s concerts. Return guest engagements in the United States include concerts with the American Composers Orchestra (in a program presented by Carnegie Hall featuring the New York premiere of Mark Adamo’s Last Year and two world premieres: a Carnegie Hall co-commission by Yvette Janine Jackson, and one by inti figgis-vizueta), California’s Pacific Symphony, Charlotte Symphony and Santa Fe Pro Musica. In addition, she returns to Norrlandsoperan in Sweden.
As music director of Chicago Sinfonietta, Chen has made two recordings for Cedille Records: Project W – Works by Diverse Women Composers (March 2019, nominated for GRAMMY® Award for Producer of the Year, Jim Ginsburg) and Delights and Dances (June 2013). In 2018, Innova Records released River Oaks Chamber Orchestra's debut album ROCO: Visions Take Flight (recognized with a GRAMMY® Award for Producer of the Year, Blanton Alspaugh) featuring five commissioned contemporary works conducted by Chen.
Chen’s honors include being named one of the 2015 Top 30 Influencers by Musical America; the 2012 Helen M. Thompson Award from the League of American Orchestras; winner of the 2007 Taki Concordia Fellowship founded by Marin Alsop; First Prize of the 2005 Malko Competition (she remains as the only woman in the competition history since 1965 to have won First Prize); and ASCAP awards for innovative programming. Chen is conductor laureate of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra after serving as music director from 2010 to 2016, and also served as artistic director and conductor for the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra Summer Festival from 2016 to 2021. Born in Taiwan, Chen came to the United States to study violin in 1989 and became the first student in New England Conservatory’s history to receive master’s degrees simultaneously in both violin and conducting, and she earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting at the University of Michigan.