Julia Chen

Pianist & Instructor

Photo: Dale Rothenberg (Front Page Photo: Jonghyuk Lee)

Photo: Dale Rothenberg (Front Page Photo: Jonghyuk Lee)


Raised in Brooklyn, New York, Julia Chen began studying both jazz and classical piano at an early age. She holds a Bachelors in Jazz Piano Performance and a Bachelors in Psychology from the the Oberlin College and Conservatory in Ohio. Her previous teachers include Marco Benevento, Roberta Piket, Billy Hart, and Dan Wall. She has led, composed, and arranged for groups in New York and Oberlin, performing at venues including the Cutting Room in NYC and the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.  She has accompanied ballet, modern, and children's dance classes at the Mark Morris Dance Center, the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, and Marymount Manhattan College.  

Julia has nine years of experience teaching piano and music lessons to both children and adults.  She teaches privately as well as through Soyulla Artists and the Williamsburg Music Studio.  She encourages her students to learn music in multiple genres, and to bring in songs or pieces of their own choosing when possible.  During lessons she emphasizes improvisation, basic theory knowledge, and ear training.  Above all, she attempts to give students music that challenges and excites them, and to help students find a connection to music both within and outside of their lessons. 

About the 2018 “Silver Spoons” EP

As a shy bespectacled child, Julia Chen learned to rely on music to express her personality and connect with others in ways she couldn't with words.  Raised in Brooklyn by parents from Poland and China, she grew up learning piano by ear from her mother who was a poet and mathematician. Julia's parents met at Ohio State University's math program before making the big move to New York City, and many years later Julia returned to small town Oberlin, Ohio for college where she met bassist Dan Stein and drummer Peter Manheim. As fate would have it, this trio all found themselves in New York after college and resumed playing together after a long and lonely hiatus.

When Peter called Julia to say that a friend had offered him a last minute overnight recording session for the upcoming weekend, Julia didn't hesitate. "Silver Spoons", her first EP, was born in the wee hours of a cold February morning at Figure 8 studios in Brooklyn, birth pangs eased by coffee and vegan brownies from Dan's local food co-op. 

To explain some song titles: the Madagascar-native succulent Kalanchoe Bracteata (also known as Silver Spoons) is one of many beautiful houseplants that fill Julia's apartment. "A Pox on Both Your Houses" is a famous line from Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet', and the song's melody was written on top of a drum beat created by Nathan Friedman, another Oberlin graduate. "A Bicycle Needs a Woman Like a Fish Needs a Man" is a nonsensical rearrangement of a feminist slogan coined by Irina Dunn but often incorrectly attributed to Gloria Steinem. "No Cigar" is close.