Claire Chan is a violinist based in NYC. She also learned to play the viola at a summer music camp run by Joseph Fuchs. During audition preparation for her Master’s, she unknowingly was considered for a regional orchestra and received her first paid gig in New York! After attending The Juilliard School for her Master’s and Doctorate with her teacher, Joseph Fuchs, she went on to collaborate with the Harlem Chamber Players Quartet and play with Broadway’s revival of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Chan attended Brown, where she studied pre-med and majored in Neuroscience as an undergraduate, and has experience as a phlebotomist! Her advice to young artists? “Play for as many people as you can; go to them if they can’t come to you.” Read on to learn more about Claire Chan and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Claire Chan
Heritage: American born Chinese
Hometown: Southfield, MI, suburb of Detroit
Current City: New York, New York
Current project: Sweeney Todd on Broadway and Harlem Chamber Players.
What are some of your favorite credits/projects:
I really love collaborating as part of the Harlem Chamber Players Quartet. It’s where ideas ignite and the real work is done in bringing a composition to life, usually something completely new to me.
Photo credit: Helane Blumfield
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Play for as many people as you can; go to them if they can’t come to you.
How did you get your start?
As I prepared my Master’s Degree audition, I played for my friend’s family. Little did I know it also served as an audition for a regional orchestra – my first paid NY gig!
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
I really love the feeling of collaboration – extended moments where everything and everyone wordlessly comes together. Two very different examples: one a musical play, “The Chevalier,” where every presence on the stage was a brilliant powerhouse of talent, ability and experience. The other, a Mostly Mozart performance of Mozart’s Mass in C Minor at the newly renovated David Geffin Hall - perfectly coordinated with a musical group-speak.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
Balancing family with career has been my biggest challenge. When my two kids were young, I spent many many years making do with subsistence practice instead of developing. Now that they are older, I’ve been able to reclaim my career.
Did you always want to be in the arts or did you have another path before you got here?
I studied pre-med and majored in Neuroscience as an undergraduate at Brown.
When did you know you wanted to have a career in the arts?
Just before starting medical school, I was in the audience at a performance of the Sibelius Concerto when I was finally able to identify a longing to be actively playing on stage instead of passively listening. While the transition was traumatic, I found my way to audition for The Juilliard School where I completed my MM and DMA degrees.
Is where you are now where you thought you’d be?
I had no clear picture of what I wanted or where I thought I would be. Sometimes it’s enough to just be holding a violin.
Do you have any other “special skills?”
I’m a phlebotomist.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
Don’t be shy!
What skills did you find to be the most helpful in your career?
Where did you study at?
The Juilliard School for my Masters and Doctorate with Joseph Fuchs.
How do you deal with performance anxiety?
Preparation is my first line of defense.
Who is your favorite composer, and what do you find interesting about their music?
My favorite composer is generally the one who’s music I’m currently working on- from Beethoven to Hailstork.
Are there any habits you have that have shaped your playing?
Teaching keeps me honest. When I give someone advice, I like to check that it is something I would follow myself. I find it useful to go back and check the basics of posture and form.
Since so many of us spent a lot of time isolated during the pandemic, how has that experience specifically changed your creative or preparation process or your outlook on life?
What other instruments have you played or learned to play besides your main instrument?
I learned to play viola at a summer music camp, a violin mecca run by my teacher, Joseph Fuchs. We were mostly violins with a few cellists, so in order to play string quartets, some were obliged to play viola. The added benefit and unforgettable experience was playing quartets with Mr. Fuchs in faculty performances.
Headshot photo credit: Helane Blumfield
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