Tianpei Ai


Hometown: Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, People’s Republic of China 

Alma maters: Bard College Conservatory of Music, Bachelors in Music Performance & Historical Studies; Montclair State University, Artist Diploma

Photos by Matt Dine


Awards/Competitions: Participant, 2015 Premio Paganini International Violin Competition, Genoa, Italy; Winner, 2014 Bard College Conservatory Concerto Competition; 3rd Prize, 2012 HK International Violin Competition, Hong Kong

Appearances: Aspen Music Festival and School, Orchestral String Fellow, 2019; New York Philharmonic, substitute, since April 2019; Grafenegg Academy Orchestra, Concertmaster, Austria, 2018; Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Orchestra, Concertmaster, Germany, 2017; Asian Youth Orchestra, Concertmaster, Hong Kong, 2012

What is your earliest memory of classical music? Wiener Philharmoniker’s 2000 New Year’s Concert with Riccardo Muti 

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? At age 12

How did you hear about TŌN? What inspired you to apply? Bard College Conservatory of Music. I applied because the program can make me improve my orchestral experiences and perform in several famous places such as Carnegie Hall and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st Century? There should be some speeches by the conductor or soloists or orchestra members which can help bring the performers and audiences closer together. 

Who is your biggest inspiration? Not only one . . . Claudio Abbado, Shmuel Ashkenasi, Leon Botstein, Jose Carreras, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Carlos Kleiber, Denis Matsuev, Nathan Milstein, Anna Netrebko, Luciano Pavarotti, Shanghai Quartet, Arnold Steinhardt

Which composer or genre of music do you feel you connect with the most? Not only one . . . Gustav Mahler, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Sergei Rachmaninov, Giacomo Puccini, Sergei Prokofiev, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Gaetano Donizetti, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Luigi Nono

What is your favorite piece of music, and why do you love it? Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony, Resurrection. It is so spiritual, emotional, and holy. 

What has been your favorite experience as a musician? Performing in the 2017 Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Orchestra

Do you have any embarrassing performance stories? I once forgot the music when I performed Bach on stage

What is some advice you would give to your younger self? Do not be too direct

Favorite non-classical musician or band: Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion, Laura Pausini.

If you could play another instrument, what would it be? Piano

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? Historian

What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to and why? Russia and Italy. I like the histories and cultures of these two countries so much. I particularly love their architecture, like the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. 

Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with and why? Confucius, Laozi, and Han Fei. I want to watch them debating against each other during the meal. 

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us: I don’t have dreams anymore. 

Piece of advice for a young classical musician: Try to enjoy silence. Don’t become addicted to loudness, such as can be found at typical college parties.