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Professional Bassoonist

As a soloist, Catherine appears regularly with the Milwaukee Symphony and is recognized for her “elegant, buttery tone.“

(The Shepherd Express) 

"One rarely hears the Mozart bassoon concerto and, for that matter, rarely hears bassoonists performing concertos. Catherine’s performance was a lovely reminder of the lyrical and technical possibilities of the instrument. She played with a polished, warm sound, full of color and nuance…the cadenzas, which she had written, revealed some technically pristine, wonderfully musical playing.”

(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Catherine Chen was originally born in Taipei, Taiwan. She began her musical studies playing the piano at the age of four and the cello at the age of five. She then moved with her mother and siblings to the United States when she was six years old, and continued playing both piano and cello until first playing the bassoon at age fourteen. She started her bassoon education under the tutelage of Joyce Kelley, former Principal Bassoon of the New York City Opera, and went on to study with Marc Goldberg, former Associate Principal Bassoon of the New York Philharmonic, at The Juilliard School. Catherine later received her Bachelor of Music from the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with Daniel Matsukawa, Principal Bassoon of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Catherine joined the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra as Principal Bassoon, holding the Muriel C. and John D. Silbar Family Bassoon Chair, in 2017 at the age of 24. Prior to her appointment with the Milwaukee Symphony, she earned the Associate Principal Bassoon position with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the age of 22 where she performed for one and a half seasons.  While in her senior year studying at the Curtis Institute of Music, she held the Principal Bassoon position with the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra.

Catherine has performed with numerous orchestras across the country including The Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Kansas City Symphony, Virginia Symphony, and Richmond Symphony. She has worked under such world-renowned conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Andris Nelsons, Fabio Luisi, Lorin Maazel, Edo de Waart, Stéphane Denève, and Osmo Vänskä, among many others.  

Catherine has also had solo engagements with The Philadelphia Orchestra, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, and The Juilliard School’s Pre-College Orchestra, and has been hailed by the Philadelphia Inquirer as, “assured and startlingly lyrical, [her solo] signaled an orchestra-wide philosophy”. Catherine is also involved in performing new works. In 2015, she gave a world-premiere of the Tanganera, a tango written by Rui dos Reis for bassoon and piano at Curtis Field Concert Hall.

Catherine has given masterclasses in the United States and abroad.  She has conducted masterclasses at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, and at Escuela de Artes Musicales in San José, Costa Rica. She has served on bassoon faculty at the University of Toronto and at Curtis Summerfest teaching the Young Artist Summer Program. In addition, she has served on bassoon faculty at the Pacific Music Institute in Honolulu, Hawaii.

During her summers, Catherine has participated at prestigious music festivals such as Marlboro Music School and Festival, Tanglewood Music Center, Music from Angel Fire Festival by invitation of violinist Ida Kavafian, North Shore Chamber Music Festival by invitation of violinist Vadim Gluzman, Music Academy of the West, Castleton Music Festival, Pacific Music Festival, National Orchestral Institute, Britt Music & Arts Festival Orchestra, and Lakes Area Music Festival.

Catherine has also performed at Carnegie Hall through the New York String Orchestra Seminar during Christmastime of 2010. In 2012, she was selected as one of three bassoonists to participate in an orchestral masterclass given by Stefan Schweigert, Principal Bassoon of the Berlin Philharmonic, in New York City at the Berlin Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall Workshop. 

Photo credit: Jennifer Brindley

Catherine Chen

Catherine Chen

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People & Blogs

dos Reis - Tanganera Astoriana - Catherine Van Handel

Prelude to Bach's Second Cello Suite

“Una Furtiva Lagrima” (A Furtive Tear) from Gaetano Donizetti’s opera, “L’elisir d’amore” aka “Elixir of Love”

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