VC WEB BLOG | VC ‘Artist’ Ray Chen – ‘How I Cope with Negative Criticism’


VC recently caught up with Australian VC ‘Artist’ Ray Chen, in New York City – where we discussed methods for coping with the emotional impacts of negative criticism from a teacher, mentor, jury member or the press.

“I have been criticized my whole life, ” the 26 year old international soloist has told The Violin Channel,  “… there is a way out though … to be so strong in your conviction that others, no matter who they are, can not touch.”

In a VC-exclusive web blog, Ray talks us through his thoughts:

“Music students, this is for you. Parents, please tell this to your kids. Teachers, please take note:

Sometimes it’s hard to see past the criticism. I have been criticized my whole life. It’s something you tend to get used to being a classical music student. It can be very constructive, but at other times it can also create a lot of negative energy especially when it comes from your teacher or mentor.

I’m sure there are a lot of students out there who can relate with lessons that have ended in tears and frustration. The question “What did I do wrong?” repeats itself over and over through the thick fog of confusion and bitterness. The thing is, you didn’t do anything wrong, because music has no rights and wrongs, there is only personal taste, and THIS is the essence of art.

The decades of training you’ve done (the average conservatory violin student start lessons at the age of 5), the countless practice sessions, masterclasses – are all done to be accepted into the eyes of a few people probably from a different generation who have their own systems and beliefs.

There is a way out though, which is to create your own belief. To be so strong in your conviction that others, no matter who they are, can not touch. My goal, my belief; is to deliver my interpretation of music written by wonderful composers to people.

Simultaneously, I’m working on changing the image of classical music so that when people first think of it, the first images that come to your mind won’t be “old people” or “boring”. Classical music is for everybody.

Remember the vegetable brussels sprouts? They used to have the worst image associated to them: “lumpy”, “mushy”, “weird smell”, something left to boil too long by your grandmother and was forced to you as a child. Well look at it now, it’s one of the most popular items on a menu. It’s in every trendy restaurant. It’s now crispy and delicious, with an assortment of ways it’s served; bacon, olive oil, garlic… mmm… Well If it’s possible for a vegetable to rebrand itself, then I’m damn sure we can change the way classical music is perceived.

So music students, I encourage you to not be afraid. Take the time to study and gain knowledge from the past and turn it into something bright for the future. Learn the rules, so you can break them. Classical music is not a dying art, it’s a dead art that you bring back to life through your music, imagination, and personality. You are the future.

PS. Here’s an article by The New York Times which inspired me to take a break from my arpeggios and exercise my fingers in a different way.

– Ray”