BGSU contemporary music program sets the stage for Hong-Da Chin

By Bob Cunningham

Hong-Da Chin started playing the Chinese flute when he was a 10-year-old boy living in Kajang, Malaysia. Now, as he is set to graduate with a Doctor of Musical Arts in contemporary music from Bowling Green State University, he has performed at some of the most prestigious venues in the United States.

"Once I started playing the Chinese flute, I couldn't stop," said Chin, who also is a composer. "I started to play eight hours a day, outside the house, in my bedroom, everywhere."

His passion for music led him to BGSU in the fall of 2013 after earning master's and undergraduate degrees at the University of Louisville and the University of Houston, respectively.

"BGSU has a very good music program, and I really like the music composition program here," said Chin, whose hometown is a satellite city of Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur. "Both programs are very strong, and the University offered me an assistantship and opportunities to teach. I've taught many classes here and I've had many performance opportunities. I've been able to build a great network through BGSU."

Chin, playing the Western flute and the Chinese flute, has performed as a soloist and as part of an ensemble at Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Kennedy Center and Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., as well as Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina, and the Huntington Library in Pasadena, California.

He is thankful for the opportunities he's had while the University.

"I feel very privileged and very happy to share my own culture," Chin said. "When I perform, I play the Chinese flute and I feel I am able to promote my own culture through the instrument that I play. It's very meaningful and a way to educate and introduce my cultures to American audiences."

Chin started writing musical compositions about 11 years ago, and finds the process just as fulfilling as performing — except that he can express himself even more.

"I feel like writing music gives me more flexibility and freedom in expressing my ideas through music," he said. "If you just perform, you are interpreting someone else's idea. But if you write your own music, people have to interpret your idea and you have more of yourself — your own voice — in the music you write. That's what I like about composing."

Chin said the faculty have all been very supportive of what he set out to achieve at BGSU, and "they are very accepting of who I am and everything that I represent. I felt very welcome at this school and all over campus.

"In completing my dissertation, I felt like my committee members, especially my adviser, Marilyn Shrude, have been very helpful and very professional with the entire process in helping me and giving me ideas, their effort and a lot of their time and making my dissertation as good and professional as possible. It was a very touching experience for me."

As far as what comes next in his musical journey, Chin said he is keeping an open mind and waiting to see what opportunities become available. As long as he can stay involved in music, whether it's performing, teaching or composing, he will give it consideration.

"Maybe I'll stay in Bowling Green if I am needed as a teacher," he said. "Maybe I'll go to New York City because I have performed there a lot and have connections there. Or maybe I'll apply for a professorship somewhere — I don't have a specific plan at this time.

"I am just very grateful that I am able to appreciate music, and able to perform music and write music. I feel that is one of the greatest things to ever happen in my life. It's not the easiest route in terms of a profession; it's not always stable and secure, but I am glad I am in music and I am able to express myself. It's very important to who I am."

To learn more about Chin and his music and to see him perform, visit his website.