Phyllis is a pianist, toy pianist and composer who’s musical interests have led in numerous directions as a soloist and collaborative artist. Described as “a dazzling performer who wrings novel sounds from the humble toy piano,”(NY Times) and “a bold pianist with an excellent sense of color” (LA Times),Phyllis has performed in a large variety of contexts in the US and abroad.
As a composer, Phyllis is the recipient of commission and grants including the Fromm Music Foundation, Roulette Intermedium (Jerome Fund), Opera Cabal Opera Shop, NYSCA, ICE, and New Music USA. Her works have been performed at Baryshnikov Arts Center, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Atlas Performing Arts in D.C., LA County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Phyllis is currently working on a new multimedia work for Margaret Leng Tan, commissioned by the Singapore International Festival for the Arts and the Jack Quartet/Look & Listen Festival.
Phyllis is a founding member of International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), a New York-based collective dedicated to the performance and promotion of new works. Described by the Chicago Reader as “one of the world leading proponents of the toy piano,” Phyllis is also the founder of UnCaged Toy Piano, an annual call for scores and biennial festival dedicated to expanding the repertoire for toy piano.
Phyllis attended Oberlin Conservatory and received a Masters Degree from NorthwesternUniversity . She is finishing her DMA in piano performance at Indiana University, where she studied with André Watts.
Phyllis recently released her third solo toy piano album, Little Things, on New Focus Recordings, and a collaborative album with the Brooklyn-based chamber-pop ensemble, Cuddle Magic, on fyo records.
“…she raised the bar for delightful quirkiness matched with interpretive sensitivity.” —New York Times
“…dazzling delight…” —LA Times
“As a performer, Phyllis is a superb pianist and a brilliant advocate for the instrument’s downscaled toy sibling; as a composer, she regularly wins our unofficial Honorary George Crumb “What the Hell Was That?” Award for sublime instrumental bafflements– and we mean that very much as a compliment.” —Time Out New York
“By turns poignant, humorous and virtuosic, Chen’s performance offered a slyly subversive take on issues relating to femininity, technology and power…the looping, spellbinding music…became a fitting tribute to the modest, repetitive, yet quietly heroic work of women.” –New York Times (on Lighting The Dark)
“Phyllis Chen, the show’s sole instrumentalist…achieves dazzling effects with pianos both standard-sized and shrunken.” —Financial Times
“…her captivating performance was animated by unbridled inventiveness, the kind of joyous creativity that playing with toys is meant to inspire.” —The Oregonian
“music world that simultaneously haunts and inspires…handsomely crafted…” —Time Out Chicago
“…Chen’s madcap music was just right…” —LA Times
“Chen’s combination of playfulness, discipline and an unerring ear in mixing strange sonorities made (it) a captivating work.” —Washington Post