Cellist Kett Lee and pianist Ai-Ying Chiu met as students over 10 years ago and haven’t stopped playing together since. The two recently released an album “Beethoven and Franck” of cello sonatas, helping raise funds for an orchestra in Morton, Illinois.
Lee and Chiu are immigrants; Lee comes from a Chinese-Malaysian family, while Chiu grew up in Taiwan. They met at the Boston Conservatory and have traveled the world as acclaimed musicians. The two are members of the Voyage Piano Trio with a violinist. Chiu is a founding member of the Kaohsiung Chamber Music Ensemble and Lee is part of the Boston String Quartet.
“Learning music helps you overcome obstacles in life,” Lee said. “You know how hard it is to get something.”
Chiu started playing piano at age four, earning a bachelor’s degree at the Tainan National University of the Arts before coming to the Conservatory for her master’s degree. Lee started relatively late on cello at 16, but had played piano, erhu and pipa before.
“Our music learning was not meant to be just fun but to do things correctly and be good at them,” Chiu said. “We got to enjoy and have fun through our music after reaching our achievements.”
Lee and Chiu hope to instill a love of music in their protégés. Chiu teaches at the New School of Music in Cambridge and Lee teaches at Noble and Greenough School in Dedham. They also offer private instruction to adults, many who learned to play as children.
Chiu said, “Even though they stopped playing the piano at different points of their lives, the music was already planted in their hearts, so they wanted to come back to it. That makes me believe that my job as a piano teacher is very important and meaningful because I am planting something very wonderful, which is music in their lives.”
One of Chiu’s favorite performances was a solo in Italy, playing a composition based on Argentinian dances.
“One woman asked if I grew up in Argentina,” Chiu said. “She felt I really understood the music completely. She made me feel my hard work was worth it, she was so happy. I am glad that my understanding of the music and the interpretation was somewhat accurate.”
Lee’s most memorable performance was in Japan, when he was surprised by more than 50 exquisite desserts after his concert.
“I found that very touching,” Lee said.
While a musician’s life of practicing, recording and teaching is exhausting, the two wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I could never do a nine-to-five job. I love to travel, see different environments, see different people,” Chiu said. “We never get bored.”
The album is available at www.kettchuanlee.bandcamp.com. Four copies have been provided for Sampan readers, available after completing the health survey on page 8.
This post is also available in: Chinese