1. What is your name and your profession(s)? Owen Chen - Software Engineer & Jazz Musician in NYC
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? US Native
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry? Mother was an amateur violinist
4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies. [No answer]
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? I wish I spent more time working on my Mandarin growing up. As an only child and all my relatives living in China, I do feel less connected to my heritage the older I get.
6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)? 6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now? My mother started me on the violin at age 5, and I studied classical violin for roughly 9 years studying privately and playing in local symphony orchestras. Started flute in middle school, and switched to percussion in the school ensembles, and continuing into high school playing in drumline and the school's jazz band as a drummer. Around 13, I got obsessed with the electric guitar, watching Funtwo's "Canon Rock" on YouTube. That first summer I got my guitar, I probably spent around 8 hours a day for three months to learn that song, and I posted my first video on YouTube of it. It kind of took off, so throughout high school I made a bunch of "one-man band" videos and got a few million views from them, and I really enjoyed the production aspect of putting everything together into a final product, which is also why I pursued Computer Science in Undergrad at UC Berkeley, also doubling in a Cognitive Science major. At Cal, I was in the Cal Jazz Ensembles (UC Jazz) on the guitar, and I'm currently in New York City, almost done with my part-time Masters in Jazz Performance at NYU while working as a Software Engineer at LinkedIn.
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse. Back in 2009, I had a chance to play "Canon Rock" as a guitar soloist with the San Diego Young Artists Symphony Orchestra, so it was pretty cool to play guitar with a full live orchestra with the song that inspired me to start guitar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6VPVGJlSts. I also loved making YouTube videos back in the day (about a decade ago), one-man band style stuff https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7FkcTxFT5E. More recently, I entered a guitar competition (Wilson Guitar Festival) with international players and was a semi-finalist for the jazz category. But my favorite projects are leading jazz trio's here in New York City's jazz scene. Bar Next Door in Greenwhich Village is my favorite https://www.instagram.com/p/B7r-UjeBWvb/
8. Describe to me your dream project. My dream music project would be to leverage emerging technology, perhaps blockchain, to create value, whether it's through an internet platform or other form of technology, for the next generation of musicians. The educational technology space is interesting to me, as well as new models of monetization for independent artists.
9. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry? Jazz music is Black American music, so unlike classical music there's not many AAPIs in the scene. There has been a growing number of South Koreans and Japanese jazz musicians coming to New York to study jazz, and I love how multi-cultural the jazz scene is here in New York.
10. 10a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why? 10b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general? The AAPI musician that really inspires me in the Jazz world is Kevin Wang, who unfortunately left the music scene a few years ago - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kg6r-b3f4vo. I've always looked up to him as a role model, being an extremely rare Chinese American in the jazz scene, but also one of the best jazz guitarists I've enjoyed listening to.
11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? Advice I would give to my teenage self would be to invest in Bitcoin in 2011, after really putting in time to study it of course. That would lay the foundation for creating the most impact in creating a company or technology solution to improve the lives of others, because $100 in Bitcoin in 2011 is 100 BTC, which is $6 million today. For the price of one of my guitars, that would be $120million worth of Bitcoin today.
12. Do you have any upcoming projects for which you are excited and about which you are allowed to share? Is there anything non-music-related on the horizon about which you would like to share? It was fun playing acoustic guitar for a short animated film created about the Asian American experience, which should be out later this year I think. I'm also looking forward to completing my Masters and releasing my debut jazz album of original compositions (for my Masters).
13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate. Blockchain technology, Cycling (used to be on the cross country team in high school and triathlon team in college).