B i o g r a p h y
Jenny J. Yao is an 18-year-old composer and pianist in her freshman year at Harvard University. She began studying music theory and composition at age 10 under the tutelage of Dr. Edward Hart at the College of Charleston and now works with Dr. Robert Kyr. In her compositional career, she has been named one of seven National Finalists in the 2017 and 2018 MTNA Senior Composition Competition and a 2018 National YoungArts Foundation Winner in Classical Music Composition. She was recognized as an Emerging Composer for her string quartet “Mystic Rites” in the Tribeca New Music 2016 Young Composer Competition and received Honorable Mention thrice at the NextNotes High School Composition Awards. She was selected as a finalist for the 2016 and 2017 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, but her chamber ensemble work "Non Compos Mentis" recently received an Honorable Mention in 2018.
During her summers, she has attended programs such as the Atlantic Music Festival (AMF) and the Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI), where she was fortunate enough to study and present in masterclasses with Nico Muhly, David Ludwig, Amy Beth Kirsten, Pierre Jalbert, Christopher Dobrian, George Tsontakis, Robert Cuckson, and Zhou Long. Her pieces have been performed by members of the Charleston Symphony and College of Charleston Orchestras, AMF’s Contemporary Ensemble, and BUTI Young Artists Orchestra, as well as ensembles such as Tanglewood Music Center’s New Fromm Players, Vento Chiaro, and Bala Brass.
Also an accomplished pianist, Jenny started playing piano at age 5 and has studied with Dr. Paul Sanchez and with Ran Dank. Her achievements include winning first place at the American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition and the Vernell Gregg Young Artists Competition as well as prizes at the American Fine Arts Festival (AFAF) International Concerto Competition and Romantic Music Competition. In 2016-2017, she was the MTNA SC state winner in the Senior Piano Competition, and in 2014-2015, the state winner in the Junior Piano Competition. She has had the privilege of performing at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and Piccolo Spoleto Festival. In addition, she has participated in masterclasses with distinguished artists such as Ilana Vered, Robert McDonald, James Tocco, and Sasha Starcevich. In July 2016, she performed with the Kostroma Symphony Orchestra in Russia conducted by maestro Pavel Gershtein for Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto.
From an early age, Jenny has been devoted in sharing her passion to music with her community. She has been performing for patients and residents of local hospitals and nursing homes since 7th grade, and is currently a Resident Team Leader of Harvard’s Music in Hospitals and Nursing Homes Using Entertainment as Therapy (MIHNUET). In 2016, she founded the Fine Arts Youth Outreach Collective to engage and inspire young children of the Lowcountry in the arts in fostering future artists and lifelong arts enthusiasts.
As an academically driven student, she participated in the 2014 National History Day National Tournament, 2015 Science Olympiad National Tournament, and 2017 National Chemistry Olympiad Exam. Since beginning formal research in a biomedical engineering laboratory since sophomore year, she has been recognized as a finalist and special award winner in the 2017 INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair, semifinalist in the 2017 Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology, and 2018 Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar. In May 2018, she was honored by the United States Department of Education as a 2018 Presidential Scholar for outstanding scholarship, leadership, and service.