French Connection

Sean Chen & John Klinghammer

Sean Chen and John Klinghammer are both friends of Vesper Concerts. Sean was part of the piano duo that appeared last season with arx duo’s premiere of Atlas. John was the Assistant Principal/Eb clarinet with the Omaha Symphony for thirteen years and has been a guest performer for several Vesper Concerts. Sean and John are now colleagues in Kansas City, MO, and return to Omaha to present a program of French/American music for clarinet and piano.

About Sean Chen

A “thoughtful musician well beyond his years” (The Republic), pianist Sean Chen shares his “alluring, colorfully shaded renditions” (New York Times) and “genuinely sensitive” (LA Times) playing with audiences around the world in solo and chamber recitals, concerto performances, and masterclasses. After winning the 2013 American Pianists Awards, placing third at the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, and being named a 2015 Annenberg Fellow, Mr. Chen is now a Millsap Artist in Residence at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance.

Mr. Chen has performed with many prominent orchestras, including the Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Kansas City, San Diego, Knoxville, Hartford, Louisiana Philharmonic, Milwaukee, North Carolina, Pasadena, Phoenix, Santa Fe, and New West Symphony Orchestras, as well as the Chamber Orchestras of Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and South Bay. He has collaborated with such esteemed conductors as Leonard Slatkin, Michael Stern, Gerard Schwarz, Nicholas McGegan, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Marcelo Lehninger, and James Judd. Solo recitals have brought him to major venues worldwide, including Jordan Hall in Boston, Subculture in New York City, the American Art Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., the National Concert Hall in Taipei, Het Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and the Salle Cortot in Paris.

Mr. Chen has served on the juries of notable piano competitions, including the Thailand International Piano Competition, West Virginia International Piano Competition, Cleveland International Piano Competition for Young Artists, and Steinway competitions around the country. Given his natural inclination for teaching and approachable personality, Mr. Chen is particularly in demand for residencies that combine performances with master classes, school concerts, and artist conversations, which have brought him to such institutions as the Cleveland School of Music, Indiana University, University of British Columbia, University of Houston Moores School, Spotlight Awards at the Los Angeles Music Center, Young Artist World Piano Festival, and several Music Teachers’ Associations throughout the country.

Mr. Chen has been featured in both live and recorded performances on WQXR (New York), WFMT (Chicago), WGBH (Boston), WFYI (Indianapolis), KPR (Kansas), NPR’s From the Top, and American Public Media’s Performance Today. Additional media coverage includes a profile featured on the cover of Clavier Companion in May 2015, recognition as “One to Watch” by International Piano Magazine in March 2014, and inclusion in WFMT’s “30 Under 30.”

His CD releases include La Valse, a solo recording on the Steinway label, hailed for “penetrating artistic intellect” (Audiophile Audition); a live recording from the Cliburn Competition released by harmonia mundi, praised for his “ravishing tone and cogently contoured lines” (Gramophone); an album of Michael Williams’s solo piano works on the Parma label; and a recent album of Flute, Oboe, and Piano repertoire titled KaleidosCoping with colleagues Michael Gordon and Celeste Johnson. Mr. Chen has also contributed to the catalog of Steinway’s new Spirio system.

A multifaceted musician, Mr. Chen also transcribes, composes, and improvises. His transcriptions of such orchestral works as Ravel’s La Valse, Mozart’s Overture to the Marriage of Figaro, and the Adagio movement of Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2, have been received with glowing acclaim and enthusiasm, and his encore improvisations are lauded as “genuinely brilliant” (Dallas Morning News). His Prelude in F# was commissioned by fellow pianist Eric Zuber, and subsequently performed in New York. An advocate of new music, he has also collaborated with several composers and performed their works, including Lisa Bielawa, Jennifer Higdon, Michael Williams, Nicco Athens, Michael Gilbertson, and Reinaldo Moya.

Born in Florida, Mr. Chen grew up in the Los Angeles area of Oak Park, California. His impressive achievements before college include the NFAA ARTSweek, Los Angeles Music Center’s Spotlight, and 2006 Presidential Scholars awards. These honors combined with diligent schoolwork facilitated offers of acceptance by MIT, Harvard, and The Juilliard School. Choosing to study music, Mr. Chen earned his Bachelor and Master of Music from Juilliard, meanwhile garnering several awards, most notably the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. He received his Artist Diploma in 2014 at the Yale School of Music as a George W. Miles Fellow. His teachers include Hung-Kuan Chen, Tema Blackstone, Edward Francis, Jerome Lowenthal, and Matti Raekallio.

Mr. Chen resides in Kansas City, Missouri with his wife, Betty, a violinist in the Kansas City Symphony. When not at the piano, Mr. Chen enjoys tinkering with computers, and exploring math, science, and programming. Mr. Chen is a Steinway Artist.


About John Klingenhammer

3rd/Bass Clarinetist with the Kansas City Symphony since 2017, John Klinghammer has also served as acting Associate Principal/Eb for the KCS during the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons, acting 3rd/Bass Clarinet for the 2015-16 season, and from 2001-2014 had been Assistant Principal/Eb clarinet with the Omaha Symphony. Before arriving in Omaha, he served a one-year stint as 2nd/Bass clarinet with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. He has also been principal clarinet of the Des Moines Symphony, and a member of the National Repertory Orchestra.

As a chamber musician, John has appeared with the Breckenridge Music Festival, Omaha Chamber Music Society, Vesper Concerts, Tuesday Musical, Monument Piano Trio, Analog Arts Ensemble, Shir Ami, Eko Nova, on the Kansas Symphony’s Happy Hour series and with Art of Elan.

John received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon, and Master’s and Doctorate degrees from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, where he became a member of the USC Scholarship Woodwind Quintet. He spent a year as principal clarinet of the YMF Debut Orchestra of Los Angeles, and in 2000 performed the Copland Clarinet Concerto with that orchestra. John has given master classes and recitals at universities across the country, and has been on faculty at the University of South Dakota and the College of Saint Mary. He helped create the Eko Nova new music series in Omaha, and served as its first artistic director. He has also served as a staff conductor with the Omaha Symphony, helping to create and lead some of the orchestra’s many nationally respected educational programs.

 John spends his summers performing in Oregon with the Britt Music Festival. His many wonderful teachers include Cindi Bartels, Dr. Wayne Bennett, Michael Anderson, Ted Oien, Mitchell Lurie, Michele Zukovsky, and the incomparable Yehuda Gilad. He lives in Brookside with his wife, Kansas City Symphony cellist and gardening savant Maria Crosby.