Grace Chen – The One from Dartmouth College

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Grace Chen – The One from Dartmouth College

A 21st Century Approach to 19th Century Music.

Third in a multi-part series.

The New Hampshire Concerto Competition

Just before 7:30 p.m. on November 8, 2023,  11 college students from across the state of New Hampshire filed into Keefe Auditorium in Nashua.  All music majors, they were the finalists chosen to represent their schools at an  “orchestra read session.”

The NH Concerto will be the culmination of the College Composition Project created by Symphony New Hampshire.  A unique opportunity for serious undergraduate college musicians and composers to create a sample piece for professional consideration.

Grace Chen. She was THE ONE from Dartmouth College.

Grace Chen from Darthmouth College in Keith Spiro Photo
Grace Chen hearing the read thru of her composition by Symphony NH. Photo | Keith Spiro

She came alone.
She participated.
And she conquered.

Kind, friendly and interacting with everyone, she came all the way from Hanover NH. And, when it came to the play through, and the feedback, she aced it. Right there and then. There was this aura around the orchestra. The comments and body language told the story.

She was the only one who made it down from Dartmouth that night but it wouldn’t have mattered. She set the bar for the evening read through.


Grace Chen, started learning music at age four, piano at age five, and violin at age nine. She changed from violin to cello at age 11. Then, at twenty years of age, she picked up percussion. Music has always been a huge part of her life and she definitely knew what she wanted to pursue in college…

Grace Chen is a senior at Dartmouth College majoring in Music and Engineering. She is originally from Potomac, Maryland and many of her compositions were inspired by nature. Her submission, Flowing Summit, was selected as one of the pieces to be included in the NH Concerto.

Flowing Summit she says, “was inspired by the natural beauty of New Hampshire. The Granite State, specifically of the bodies of water that flow through it (The Connecticut River), and the lush mountain ranges (The White Mountains).”

First impression learning she was invited to participate in the Nashua reading:

I have always dreamed of getting my music played by a full orchestra

I am super grateful that I was given this opportunity. I have always dreamed of getting my music played by a full orchestra but I knew how unrealistic it was, so I never got my hopes up. Therefore, when this opportunity was sent to me by Professor Dong, one of my music professors, I was so excited.

Grace Chen’s experience of having a reading with a live Orchestra:

It was an amazing and rewarding experience.  Hearing my piece through software playback is completely different from hearing it played by live musicians.

There were parts of the piece that did not sound like what I was used to hearing (from the software playback), and other parts of the piece where the sound exceeded my expectations. Overall, it was super eye-opening and I hope to have more opportunities like this in the future, as it has helped me grow as a musician.

Getting real time feedback from musicians and Maestro Roger Kalia:

The real time feedback really informed me about how I can improve my composing. (I learned) what combination of instruments sound good and which combinations are the most effective.

I also learned what is hard for an orchestra to coordinate during sight reading, etc. Maestro Kalia was extremely courteous and knowledgeable and welcomed us students warmly. It was a pleasure to be able to work with him and the orchestra.

Where this live reading experience changes her future approach:

In my compositional approach to the specific piece that I submitted for the competition, I will consider the time needed in transitions for percussion players. Also a doubling some of my passages to make them stand out more. And just in general, be open to any and all opportunities like this that comes my way!

Grace Chen’s additional observations and comments about the experience:

The reading of Flowing Summit was an amazing and rewarding experience.
Overall, just super grateful to have this opportunity.

I think it great that the orchestra decided to play pieces by upcoming composers/students.

This lowers the barriers and sends a message to future music students that you don’t necessarily need to be a well-recognized composer to have your music played by a prestigious orchestra.


The New Hampshire Concerto premieres

The New Hampshire Concerto premieres at Symphony New Hampshire’s New World Concert, April 20, 2024. The concert ends with Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, “From the New World.” Inspired by the spirit of African-American spirituals and Native American music that he heard during his travels in America, the work is a fitting tribute to New Hampshire, the spirit of the people who have come before, and those that will come after us.


new world2
New World — Dvořák Saturday, April 20, 2024. 7:30 PM 9:15 PM
Keefe Center for the Arts (Nashua)

Details and Tickets available here.


Earlier installments of this multi-part series of a 21st Century approach to 19th Century Music:

Jude Morris New Voice Classic Performance

The lads of UNH  Wesley Coffin, Kyle Cook and Michael Crowley

Keith Spiro Communicast. Good people doing great things
The stories of Good people doing Great Things.


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About this Author

Keith Spiro

Advisor & ContributorInk Link News, Arts & Culture

Business Strategist, Community Builder with a keen interest in working with high-impact startups and other organizations that can make a difference in community and health.