Guest pianist gives performance of love


Ashanti Thomas

Sean Chen, a pianist, performs three different musical pieces in the Dvorak Concert Hall of Doudna Fine Arts Center Friday night. Chen received a standing ovation from the audience members at the end of his performance.

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez, Campus Reporter

Pianist Sean Chen took the stage in the Dvorak Concert Hall on Friday night, performing four pieces for a crowd of Eastern students, faculty and members of the surrounding community.  

Chen was brought to Eastern by the Illinois State Music Teachers Association, which sponsored the event as part of its 2022 State Conference. ISMTA’s conference, along with Chen’s performance, brought music students and professionals from all around Illinois to Eastern’s Doudna Fine Arts Center.  

They, along with members of the Eastern community, made up a crowd that gave Chen, not just one, but two standing ovations.  

The pieces chosen for the night’s performance were made up of songs that Chen said he likes to play, with both pieces he has been playing for a while and others that “were relatively new additions.” His performance featured pieces that were all connected by the theme of love.  

“You can always find a little bit of connection here or there,” Chen said. “Even if it’s a little bit obscured, it’s still nice to have a little bit of that for the audience, just to have a narrative through the program.”  

Ethan Schobernd, a junior music major, was one of the members of the night’s audience. He said that he thought Chen got the point of love across with the pieces that he selected because “they all have some sort of rich feeling to them.” 

“Any time he would play a specific chord or a specific idea, he would create an atmosphere that felt very romantic and very intimate,” Schobernd said.  

For Schobernd, one of the best parts of the performance was the way Chen engaged with the audience. Before performing, Chen spent some time interacting with the audience and explaining what made each piece interesting. 

He touched on the decisions the composers made and the meaning behind them, sprinkling his explanations with personality and humor, which Schobernd said he enjoyed.  

“My favorite part was his personality and sense of humor any time he would interact with the audience,” Schobernd said. “He always had this energy that was inviting for everybody to ask questions or talk to him, and you felt like you were right next to him in the room. He had a very vibrant and happy-go-lucky personality.”  

“I think it’s always nice to talk to the audience. It’s nice for me, loosens me up,” Chen said.  

He said that after past performances, he has had audience members come up and say that his explanations helped them follow the pieces better.  

“Especially with pieces that are a little bit more modern or a little bit weirder that people don’t know, it’s nice to give them guideposts as the piece goes along,” Chen said.  

Nevaeh Smith, a junior music education major, said that out of the four pieces, her favorite was “Fantasie in C,” Opus 17 by Robert Schumann.  

Prior to playing this piece, Chen said that Schumman enjoyed including references to places and people in his pieces, from the general themes of the pieces down to the notes he would play. This piece, Chen said, was dedicated to Robert Schumann’s beloved wife, Clara Schumann. 

He invited the audience to listen for the notes that Schumann carefully selected to reflect his love for Clara Schumann.  

“I really enjoyed all three movements of them, and the way that he explained how they were and trying to listen to the form like he said,” Smith said. “That was interesting.”  

Chen is not only a pianist, but also a composer and arranger. He not only performed four pieces from throughout history, he also improvised a piece.  

Toward the end of the show, he asked the audience for notes and a time signature, playing a song based on the audience’s suggestions. The improvised piece earned him his second standing ovation of the night.  

Smith said she enjoyed the improvised piece and the way that Chen took audience members’ suggestions for it.  

“I thought that was really interesting because you don’t really see that a lot, especially with classical performers,” Smith said. “Usually, you always see the improv with jazz, so that was really interesting. To see him create something off the bat was really interesting.” 


Kyara Morales-Rodriguez can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].