May 18, 2021
Massachusetts - New York

Continuing a career of firsts:
Mei-Ann Chen,
first female Asian conductor to be named Chief Conductor
of Austria’s recreation - Grosses Orchester Graz at Styriarte
Taiwanese American conductor Mei-Ann Chen officially takes on the post of principal conductor of recreation - Grosses Orchester Graz at Styriarte beginning this fall, making her the first female Asian conductor to serve as chief conductor of the ensemble. She is also one of the first female Asian conductors to hold such a position with an Austrian orchestra.
Announced today by Mathis Huber, General Manager of the acclaimed 19 year-old ensemble, the appointment comes after only two seasons of Ms. Chen's original three-year term as the orchestra’s first-ever principal guest conductor.

"Since Mei-Ann Chen's first collaboration with recreation in May 2011, a great and still growing affinity has been felt between the musicians of the orchestra, Haus Styriarte, and her, resulting in all our collaborations turning into very special moments of artistic and human encounter," said Mr. Huber. "Principal guest conductor of the orchestra recreation since 2019, beginning this 2021-2022 season, she will now serve as recreation's principal conductor for five years, fulfilling a long-cherished wish of the orchestra. In addition to curating three major orchestral projects in Graz each season, she will open up fields of art for Styriarte and, in doing so, bring her great passion for working with youth orchestras and championing female composers to Graz together with recreation."
“Appointing one of the first Asian woman conductors in Austria to the post of chief conductor is just another example of this 21st century orchestra's leadership in the field. I am deeply grateful for the trust that Mathis Huber and his incredible team at Styriarte have placed in me," said Ms. Chen. "Every return to Graz during the past decade has always been a highlight in my guesting schedule, and working with the Styriarte team feels more like being in a musical family over time. With its diverse pool of musicians of 20 plus nationalities and such a friendly atmosphere, it was literally ‘love at first sight!’ since 2011.
"Serving as the ensemble’s first principal guest conductor since 2019 was both an enormous pleasure and a great honor! The virtual concerts we did together during the pandemic provided much healing and inspiring moments for many - memories I will treasure dearly and also a reminder of the importance of the arts in daily life, as well as in a worldwide crisis.
“I can’t wait to begin our new partnership, and the exciting possibilities it can bring for the future to both loyal supporters in Austria and the new global audiences Styriarte has gained through the virtual world.”
Ms. Chen’s work with recreation - Grosses Orchester Graz has its origins in her work in Chicago, when her 2009 audition program for Chicago Sinfonietta’s Music Director search caught the attention of the Styriarte team. In 2011, the ensemble’s invitation (and that program) became her Austrian debut.

“Mei-Ann is a dynamic force recognized not only for her ongoing work with Chicago Sinfonietta in diversity, equity, and inclusion, and innovative programming, but for inspiring others and making connections between audiences, musicians and community,” stated Chicago Sinfonietta Chief Executive Officer Blake-Anthony Johnson. “This new post is a reflection of the leadership within Chicago Sinfonietta responsible for being a leader in the field as a 21st century orchestra.”
Mei-Ann Chen conducting Tan Dun's Water Concerto with Dame Evelyn Glennie and
"recreation" in Graz - February 2020

The new five-year post with recreation - Grosses Orchester Graz at Styriarte is Ms. Chen’s first major European appointment. In addition to her role with Styriarte, Mei-Ann Chen is music drector of the MacArthur Award-winning Chicago Sinfonietta since 2011, making her the first Asian female conductor to lead the orchestra as its second music director, and is the first-ever artistic partner of Houston’s ROCO (River Oaks Chamber Orchestra) (since 2019). In 2016, she became one of a few Asian female conductors to hold a post in Taiwan when she became artistic director and conductor for the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra Summer Festival. Ms. Chen is the first female music director and conductor laureate of Tennessee’s Memphis Symphony Orchestra (having served as music director from 2010 – 2016). In 2005, Ms. Chen became the first woman - and still is the only woman - to have won First Prize at the prestigious Malko Competition, as well as being the 2007 recipient of the Taki Concordia Fellowship founded by Marin Alsop. She is also the first student in New England Conservatory’s history to receive master’s degrees simultaneously in both violin and conducting.
Celebrated 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. Highly regarded as a compelling communicator and an innovative leader both on and off the podium, and a sought-after guest conductor, she has appeared with distinguished orchestras throughout the Americas, Europe, Taiwan, The United Kingdom, and Scandinavia, and continues to expand her relationships with orchestras worldwide (over 110 orchestras to date).
Ms. Chen has been praised by the press as “…powerful, with an exacting style of conducting that commands attention” (San Francisco Classical Voice). Mannheimer Morgen has stated, “Her conducting has magical effects on the elasticity and flexibility of the overall sound, which springs, breathes and expresses itself” and she has been called “an energizing catalyst on the podium”- by Mittmedie and “a driving force” by Norway’s vk.s.

Upcoming engagements include serving on the jury for the 2021 Malko Competition for Young Conductors, Carnegie Hall’s NYO2, National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra Summer Festival, and the highly anticipated return of Chicago Sinfonietta to the renowned Ravinia Festival. In addition to subscription performances with Chicago Sinfonietta, recreation - Grosses Orchester Graz at Styriarte, and ROCO, highlights of the 2021-2022 season include return engagements to England’s BBC Symphony in London, Finland’s Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Liechtenstein Symphony Orchestra, Norway’s Oslo Philharmonic, Het Residentie Orkest in The Netherlands, Malmö and Norrlandsoperan in Sweden, and Taiwan Philharmonic, and debuts with Santa Fe Pro Musica and Spain’s Basque National Orchestra. Amongst postponed dates due to Covid-19 are debuts with the New York Philharmonic, Germany’s Staatsorchester Darmstadt, and Ireland's Ulster Orchestra, returns with San Francisco Symphony, Netherlands Philharmonic, and Norwegian Radio Orchestra.

Founded by musicians of the Graz Symphony Orchestra in 2002, “recreation – Grosses Orchester Graz”. has performed at the Styriarte Festival in Graz (which was created in 1985 to showcase the work of Nikolaus Harnoncourt in his hometown), the Musikverein in Vienna, the Alte Oper in Frankfurt, the Styrian Autumn Festival, and the Jazz Summer Graz Festival, to name a few.
Members of the orchestra either studied at the University of Music in Graz or teach at one of the music education institutions in that city and all of Styria.
“recreation” has worked with outstanding conductors such as Andrés Orozco-Estrada (principal conductor from 2005 until 2009), and Jordi Savall. From 2012 to 2017 Michael Hofstetter was appointed principal conductor of the recreation orchestra for five seasons. From 2019/20, Mei-Ann Chen served as Principal Guest Conductor of the orchestra, discovering and presenting orchestral works of important female composers of the past and the present before being named Chief Conductor beginning Fall 2021.

YouTube links to recent performances with recreation – Grosses Orchester Graz:
Dropbox link to photos, complete biography of Mei-Ann Chen and additional press materials
Press Contact:
Laura Grant, Grant Communications