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.
Phyllis founded the UnCaged Toy Piano, a composition call-for-scores to further expand the repertoire for toy piano. UnCaged welcomes composers of all ages and backgrounds to consider the many artistic possibilities in the toy piano. The Chicago Reader states that Phyllis has “become one of the world’s leading proponents of the toy piano.” The competition has received works from composers all around the world and these compositions become an integral part of her repertoire. In 2013, Phyllis hosted the 2nd three-day UnCaged Toy Piano Festival in New York City, inviting ten different artists in three different venues. To find out more about the call for scores, please visit uncagedtoypiano.org
With a long affection towards miniature theater, Phyllis has created numerous works with her partner /video artist/electronic musician, Rob Dietz. The duo received a NYSCA grant (via Concert Artist Guild) to create the Looking Glass ReWondered that was premiered in 2010 at the Voorhees Theater. They have also created The Memoirist, Pearlessence, Chroma, Carousels, and most recently, The Slumber Thief, a 2012 commissioned work by Opera Cabal’s Opera Shop program.
Phyllis is one of the founding members of ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble), a New York-based collective dedicated to the performance and promotion of new works. Phyllis was selected as one of the composer/artist for the inaugural ICElab Series, a model for commissioning and developing new works. Her ICElab chamber pieces were performed at the 2013 Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Atlas Performing Arts, (DC) and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
Phyllis is also the recipient of numerous other awards including the 2012 Roulette-Intermedium/Jerome Commission where four composer/performers are commissioned to write a new work. She is also one of twelve composers-recipients of the 2012 Fromm Music Foundation. Upcoming commissions include a new solo work by the Baryshnikov Arts Center and a multi-media work for Margaret Leng Tan by the Singapore Arts Festival.
Phyllis attended Oberlin Conservatory (B.M.) Northwestern University (M.M)and currently a doctoral candidate at Indiana University where she studied with André Watts. She currently lives in Astoria.
“…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
“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