May 2023 Concert

Tong Chen, conductor
Samuel Torres, congas

Saturday May 20, 2023 at 8:00PM
Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew
263 W. 86th Street, New York, NY

Purchase Tickets Online

  • Ernst von Dohnányi Excerpts from The Veil of Pierrette, Op. 18
  • Samuel Torres (2014) Regreso (United States premiere)
    Samuel Torres, congas
  • Antonín Dvořák Symphony No. 9, Op. 95, "From the New World"

About the Artists

TONG CHEN, Conductor

"Masterfully presented the Mendelssohn's Fifth Symphony," described the Leipzig Times. A prizewinner of the prestigious International Malko Conducting Competition, Tong Chen, current assistant conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, has quickly established herself as one of her generation's most promising and exciting young conductors.

Highlights of the 2021-22 season include subscription week with the New Jersey Symphony orchestra, debut with St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Lexington Philharmonic, and engagement with National Symphony Orchestra. In addition, Chen is a proud participant of the 2020 Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview, postponed to March 2022.

Tong Chen has worked with numerous orchestras across the globe, including the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo; Mikkelin Kaupunginorkesteri; Besançon Symphony Orchestra; Leipzig Symphony Orchestra; Alabama Symphony Orchestra; Charleston Symphony Orchestra; and the Richmond Symphony Orchestra. In 2015, she made her Lincoln Center debut at David H. Koch Theater with the Paul Taylor Dance Company and Orchestra of St. Luke's.

Born in Shanghai, China, Ms. Chen is a regular guest conductor with orchestras throughout China. Including the Shanghai Philharmonic, Xia Men Philharmonic, Qing Dao Symphony Orchestra, Guang Zhou Symphony Orchestra, and the Shanghai Opera House, where she worked as the assistant conductor from 2004-2009.

The founder of the new music project, "NOW!", Tong has commissioned and performed new compositions throughout different cultural backgrounds and genres. Recently world premieres include Allen Shawn's Concerto for Clarinet and Cello, one of the last pieces commissioned by Benny Goodman; Ellis Marsalis' "The Fourth Autumn," arranged by Hannah Yim; "Thu Diếu" by Viet Cuong and many works by Jessie Montgomery. This season, Tong teamed with composer Huang Ruo and Manner Opera to work on a new production of Huang's Dr. Sun-Yat Sen.

An education advocate, Chen taught orchestral conducting and led the Copland School of Music orchestral program from 2012-2018. Summer 2019 marked her second year as the director of the Queens College Conductor's workshop, founded by Maurice Peress in 2010. Additionally, she is a regular guest conductor at the Manhattan School of Music, Montclair State University, the Mannes Pre-College Orchestra, numerous All-State Youth Orchestras in New York State, and a guest lecturer at Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

Tong Chen's primary studies were with Gustav Meier at the Peabody Conservatory, where she received her Master's Degree in conducting; with Maurice Peress at the Copland School of Music at Queens College in New York City; and at the Shanghai Conservatory. In addition, she attended the Aspen Music Festival, where she worked with David Zinman, and the Cabrillo Festival, where she studied with Marin Alsop. Ms. Chen was also a protégé of the former Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, Kurt Masur, and was awarded the Mendelssohn Scholarship in 2012, which allowed her to study the music of Mendelssohn and serve as the assistant conductor for Maestro Masur at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig.

Currently, Tong Chen lives in Jersey City with her family and their dog, Kimi.


Celebrated Latin Grammy Award winning percussionist, composer, and arranger, Samuel Torres was born in Bogota, Colombia. He was artistically nurtured in this bustling and culturally sophisticated metropolis where jazz and classical music share the stage with salsa and an infinite variety of Colombian folkloric idioms. Torres’s earliest exposure to music came at home, thanks to an extended family of musicians and access to a wealth of Colombian music genres, from the infectious rhythms of the cumbia and vallenato to styles which reflect a range of African, indigenous and European influences, including the porro, bambuco and pasillo.

A major inspiration for Torres was Edy Martínez, his uncle who had risen to fame in the New York City salsa scene in the early 1970s as a pianist and arranger for acclaimed conga player, Ray Barretto. Torres further cites Barretto as a primary influence and credits exposure to two seminal Barretto albums that featured his uncle, the early Latin jazz classic The Other Road and the salsa powerhouse Indestructible, as a catalyst to spurring his interest in becoming a musician.

By the age of 12, Torres was performing with various Bogotá ensembles, developing techniques that allowed him to quickly adapt to the demands of jazz, pop music, and salsa. A classically trained percussionist, he earned a degree in Music Composition from Bogotá’s esteemed Universidad Javeriana. Before departing for the U.S. in 1999, the resourceful young artist had become an established figure in Colombia’s hectic music scene, backing leading Colombian performers while serving as an arranger and music director for his country’s highly regarded telenovelas (TV soap operas) and films.

Shortly after arriving in the U.S., his career took a dramatic turn when he was tapped by famed Cuban trumpet virtuoso Arturo Sandoval to join his group. Torres spent four years touring the world and recording with the jazz legend while polishing his ever-expanding talents and attracting the attention of a long list of renowned artists with whom he would eventually collaborate. Over time, he would perform, arrange, produce and/or record with a veritable “who’s who” of the jazz, Latin pop and salsa world, including such luminaries as Tito Puente, Paquito D’Rivera, Chick Corea, Alejandro Sanz, Ricky Martin, Don Byron, Richard Bona, Lila Downs, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Angelique Kidjo, Marc Anthony, Rubén Blades, Fonseca, Andrés Cepeda, Thalía, and his country’s own international superstar, Shakira. His talents have also been featured in concerts with classical orchestras such as Berlin Symphoniker, City of London Sinfonia, Boston Pops, Bogotá Philharmonic, Medellín Philharmonic, Delaware University Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Nashville Symphony.

Rounding out the Colombian musician’s resume is his show-stopping performance for the 2000 edition of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, where he placed second, and his association with Latin Percussion, Inc., for whom he produced the DVD Drum Solos Revisited. Martin Cohen, the founder of LP who has collaborated with most of the Latin world’s finest percussionists over the past four decades, lauds Torres as the most talented arranger and producer he has encountered in over 25 years.

In 2006, Torres released Skin Tones, his debut recording and an album that quickly solidified his reputation as one of the most creative percussionists in Latin jazz today. The effort was trumpeted by JazzTimes magazine as “at once intelligent, sophisticated and explosive.” Then came Yaoundé, the much-anticipated follow-up session. The recording is even more stylistically adventurous than its predecessor, with 13 invigorating tracks that draw from the seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of Colombian folkloric traditions Torres has cultivated, as well as African sonorities and shadings of funk and avant-garde jazz.

In 2010 Torres performed his first concerto for orchestra and congas entitled “Ciudad Oculta” with the Philharmonic of Bogota. After an acclaimed response, he was invited to perform the same concert with the Philharmonic of Cali as part of the jazz festival, Ajazzgo in 2011.

The same year Torres’ “Ciclica” premiered with a string and conga orchestra at Mansion House in London with the London Symphony, the concert was in honor of Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia at the time.

In 2012 the multifaceted percussionist and composer was awarded a New Jazz Works Grant by Chamber Music America, for which he composed Forced Displacement (Zoho Music) a profoundly deep 10 movement suite that addresses tragic issues occurring in his beloved native country of Colombia.

In 2017 Chamber Music America awarded Torres for the second time the New Jazz Works Grant, under which his latest work entitled, Alegría (which means “happiness” ) came about. Torres has the distinction of being the first-hand percussionist to receive this grant. Alegría pays homage to the people of his native Colombia, as well as other Latin American nations. The music of this most recent body of work is a response to his previous album Forced Displacement (2015), which was influenced by the violence and unrest affecting his homeland. However, through Alegría, the response is one of hope and praise to the resilient spirit and remarkable ability of his people to make the best of a bad situation. Inspired by the vibrant urban and Latin dance music scenes of Colombia, the music in this latest album exemplifies how people use the language of music to express those feelings of optimism and faith. Musically, this latest work by Torres merges classic jazz traditions with more contemporary Latin urban sounds, as well as popular music styles such as boogaloo, cumbia, and Afro-Cuban jazz.

In 2017 Torres also recorded the album “Regreso” with the New Philharmonic of Bogota, which includes his two concertos “Ciclica” and “Regreso,” the latter which had premiered in Germany with the Berlin Symphony in 2014. “Regreso,” without a doubt one of Torres’ finest works was most recently awarded the prestigious Latin Grammy Award under the category of best classical album.

Having participated in a number of Grammy, Latin Grammy and Emmy award-winning and nominated productions, Torres continues cultivating a successful musical career that will no doubt have many milestones to come.

Currently Samuel Torres is performing his most recent project Alegría, which was released to great critical acclaim at the renowned Dizzy’s Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center.