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Lamont Faculty Profile: Stephanie Cheng

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Keith Ward

Lamont Director

Profile  •
Stephanie Cheng

How to Spread Music

Pianist Stephanie Cheng has a remarkable journey to share. A Teaching Associate Professor at Lamont since 2015, she is building a career that spans from Taiwan to Kuwait, from performances with regional orchestras to an internationally released CD. Her portfolio contains teaching successes and advocacy for students, professional accolades, and devotion to spreading the joys of music. 

Recently I had a conversation with her at La Belle Rosette, a favorite café for many in the Lamont community near the Newman Center. Stephanie grew up in Taiwan, where she started music study at age four. While her parents were not musicians, they valued music education and supported music study for all three of their children through a competitive city music program in Taipei. Stephanie studied piano as her major instrument and violin as well as harp as secondary instruments. Home life was filled with music, with one brother studying violin (and going on to earn a doctorate in degree performance, like his sister) and another brother playing flute. 

At age 15, Stephanie came to the United States and studied at the Interlochen Center for the Arts. From there she went to Peabody, where she completed both undergraduate and graduate degrees. She completed her doctorate in music performance at Stony Brook University. Her teachers included Ann Shein (Peabody) and Gilbert Kalish (Stony Brook).

Stephanie’s professional career began in New York City, where she had a private studio and served as Assistant Professor at City College of New York. As an artist, she performed in a piano duo for ten years and collaborated with a cellist who had been a classmate at Stony Brook. Her next career step was a giant one: becoming an Assistant Professor of Music for three years at American University of Kuwait. There she taught studio and class piano as well as music theory. Her experiences there were seminal in that she realized her role as an educator had to be broader than just teaching the best pianists. “I realized that my role, my mission became how to spread music.” Her 70 piano students were not going to become concert pianists, but she saw how talented and eager they were to learn. “If I could teach 70 students every year, then that is 70 more chances for a new audience member. Through my teaching I was spreading music.” To this day, Stephanie remains similarly committed to such students through teaching adults in her private studio. “I’ve come to teach so many adult students who did do a music degree but went onto another career. They found such a connection with music that they can’t live without it. They’ve come back to enjoy piano again. Their stories of what music means to them are so inspiring.”

 At Lamont, Stephanie oversees the keyboard area, teaches studio piano, directs the accompanying program, and coaches chamber music. As a performing artist, she is active as a concerto soloist, chamber musician, and recitalist regionally, nationally, and internationally. This spring she released her first solo CD featuring the piano music of Maurice Ravel (1875–1937), one of her favorite composers. For Stephanie, Ravel’s imagination of sound through coloristic layers offers endless exploration. Another project underway is her goal to perform with all seven regional orchestras around Denver. She is up to five. In many of those performances Stephanie has introduced audiences to a concerto by Clara Schumann (née Wieck, 1819–1896), another composer who has caught her interest.

For Stephanie, collaboration with her Lamont colleagues is something special. “This collaboration with faculty is important,” says Stephanie. “I know a lot of posts [at other schools] where faculty have to collaborate with people outside their school, but we don’t. We have the best talent in Lamont. That’s special.” Come hear that special talent in the New Year when Stephanie joins colleagues Jeremy Reynolds (clarinet) and David Byrd-Marrow (horn) on the Faculty Artists Recital Series!

Stephanie Cheng has brought so much to Lamont. Her artistry, commitment to teaching excellence, and stewardship of her community contribute to making Lamont a special place. As her journey of spreading music continues, we look forward to her collaborations with colleagues and to the fascinating projects she has underway exploring music by Clara Schumann and new chamber works.

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