Ever wanted to perform with Ray Chen? Here’s your chance.


Ray Chen is one of the leading violinists of his generation. And how cool would it be to perform with him?!

Play with Ray is an opportunity to do exactly that: perform on the Sydney Opera House stage with this celebrity-status musician. Ray is inviting three violinists into his concert; each will perform one movement from Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D minor. It’s all backed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, which Tianyi Lu will conduct.

But there’s a catch — it’s amateur violinists only. So if you consider yourself a young or emerging musician who likes to dream big, this could be a competition for you.

Ray chats with CutCommon about this opportunity, which culminates in a live performance on 25 July 2023.

Ray, this is a really unusual competition. Tell us why it’s a special opportunity reserved for amateur violinists.

In the classical music world, competitions are typically extremely serious and dominated by those already on the professional path including young prodigies, conservatory students, and those who already have concert careers. Play with Ray’s mission is to seek out a diverse amateur musician community, share their unique stories, and to provide fun and engaging performance opportunities with the highest quality musicians and venues across the globe. 

Why the Bach Concerto for Two Violins?

The Bach Double Concerto for Two Violins is an intermediate-level work that most violinists will encounter along their journey. It’s also the first duet that most violinists play which feels like an ‘official piece’ — and not just another ‘twinkle twinkle’ variation.

Practising by yourself can be pretty lonely, so getting to play a piece with another person is usually a fun, exciting, and engaging experience.

So what do you think it will take for a violinist to Play with Ray? What are the qualities you are hoping for in a musician?

We’re looking for an equal balance of individual storytelling as well as technical prowess.

Although applicants need to have an certain level of playing and grit to be able to shoulder the pressure of performing at the Sydney Opera House in front of 2,000 people — not to mention the livestream — we’re also looking forward to sharing some unique and personal stories of the players.

For me, music has always been about connecting people and sharing artistry, so I’m excited and curious to encounter more likeminded people out there.  

What will you be getting up to in your masterclass?

I like to think of masterclasses as a unique and bespoke opportunity to address the needs and pain-points of the student. The type of feedback that’s given is different depending on several factors such as the level, age, difficultly of piece, and what troubles the player might be having with a particular work.

Despite its name, the focus in masterclasses is centered on the student and their relationships to the piece. The audience and teacher are there to add in the wildcard of creative experimentation. Typically, the best masterclasses are the ones where everyone feels inspired from learning something together. 

You’re also going to be a tour guide and show the winners around Sydney! Any hints about the interesting places you’ll be hitting up?

Anticipating that some of the winners might be from around the world, I’m looking forward to personally welcoming them to Australia and sharing the wonderful sights of Sydney.

Between rehearsals at the Sydney Opera House, we’ll check out the historic markets in The Rocks, go to Bondi Beach, and maybe hit up Taronga Zoo. I reckon they’ll get an amazing experience of what Sydney has to offer!

I’d imagine that for amateur violinists, this opportunity is going to be equal parts exciting and intimidating. Why should applicants not freak out when they meet you, and play with you and the SSO?

Your mental preparation is going to important. Not freaking out when you’re suddenly in front of people you want to impress is tough, and practising by yourself feels very different to when you’re on stage.

Luckily, I’ve created a practice community called Tonic, which solves the issue of performance anxiety and encourages and motivates you to practice. There’s a Play with Ray group on there, in addition to many more, where you can meet and ask questions to the general community to inspire your practising. 

So what do you get out of the Play with Ray experience?

I wish for people to feel a sense of community and to be able to dream. Dreams which inspire creativity, motivation, and fresh ideas for people across the world are so important for the future of the arts.

Although you may feel like you’re only contributing a tiny output creativity to the universe, by joining forces, we can channel that energy to inspire each other to greater heights than what we individually could achieve.

Good luck and happy practising! 

Applications for amateur violinists to enter Play with Ray are now open. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra performance Play With Ray will take place at 7pm July 25 in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.

Ray Chen captured by Daniel Boud.

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