Theresa Chen

Setnor School of Music

Instructor, Applied Music and Performance (Jazz Piano)

Theresa Chen portrait.

301 Crouse College
Syracuse, NY 13244-1010


Theresa Chen, D.M.A., is an active, well-rounded musician. She is an improvising keyboardist, accompanist, composer/arranger, pedagogue, and Catholic music minister.

Dr. Chen is an instructor of applied jazz piano, songwriting, history of jazz, and director/co-director of jazz/funk combo and Orange Juice jazz combo at Syracuse University. She is the first Taiwanese-American who teaches jazz at the college of music in the United States. She has previously taught Functional Jazz Piano courses and secondary jazz piano lessons from 2013-2018 when she was a teaching assistant at the Eastman School of Music. She also has given a diverse series of clinics, lectures, and masterclasses around Taiwan and America. She released her first jazz album, Whispering to God, in December 2021. 

Dr. Chen has shared the stage with famous jazz artists such as Gary Smulyan, Ingrid Jensen, Dave Liebmann, Bria Skonberg, Boris Kozlov, Victor Provost, and Scott Wendholt. She also performed at the Rochester International Jazz Festival, WGMC-Jazz90.1 Radio Station, and many other prominent jazz venues in Taiwan.

Dr. Chen never stops promoting the music of her own culture. In November 2013, she was involved in the composer’s project held by the Ethnomusicology Department at NTNU. Her two arrangements of two Taiwanese folk songs, “Latin Ferry” and "Fantasy on a Theme of Flowers in the Rainy Night", were recorded on an album “The Sound of Antique,” performed by Taiwanese flutist Dr. Chia-Fen Tsai and published. Her other two works, “The Song of Taibalang” and her arrangement of Mary Lou Williams' "Lonely Moments," won the Outstanding Composition and Outstanding Arrangement--Small Ensemble at Graduate College category of the 2017-18 Downbeat Student Music Awards.

Dr. Chen is devoted to a series of performance projects on women jazz instrumentalists, historical improvisations, jazz in Asia, pedagogical methods of jazz theory/history, and performance practice of the stride piano. Invited by the Jazz Education Network(JEN) in January 2016 and 2020, she presented her research about Marian McPartland’s solo piano ballad playing and free improvisation style. In January 2022, she was invited again to the same conference in Dallas to give a clinic on teaching college-level songwriting classes on the subject of jazz standards.

Born in Buffalo, New York, and raised in Chiayi, Taiwan, Dr. Chen received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in classical piano at National Taiwan Normal University(NTNU) in 2013 with the Certificate of Digital Visual and Sound Arts and minors in flute and voice. In 2015 and 2018, she earned Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in jazz piano performance at Eastman School Music, with a minor in Music Theory and a Certificate of  Advanced Achievement in the Art of Improvisation. She has studied jazz and historical improvisations with the legendary jazz pianist Harold Danko, Gary Versace, Bill Dobbins, Dr. Dariusz Terefenko, Vincent Lenti, and organist/harpsichordist Edoardo Bellotti.

In the midst of COVID-19, Dr. Chen has participated many online collaborations and presentations on many topics. She hopes to bridge two jazz education cultures between Taiwan and America. In July 2020, she hosted two online in-depth panel discussions for Taiwanese jazz educators on teaching jazz history and jazz education in Taiwan and in the US. She was also invited by Florida Southern College and East Tennessee State University to give lectures on the history of women in jazz and basic jazz tune writing. In June 2021, invited by Taiwan Digs Jazz, she hosted a workshop on the music and spirituality of the mid-late Mary Lou Williams. As an executive member of the American Guild of Organists-Syracuse Chapter, she gave two workshops in organ improvisations and transcriptions. 

Thanks to the pandemic, Dr. Chen enjoys other interests besides art such as American and Taiwanese cultures, meteorology, ornithology, psychology, feminism, French, herpetology, interpersonal relationship and communications, geology, geography, and geometry.

Dr. Chen's CV [Word]


  • D.M.A & M.M., Jazz Piano Performance, Eastman School of Music
  • B.F.A, Classical Piano Performance, National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan


Jazz/classical piano, jazz composing/arranging, historical improvisation (classical, baroque, stride and sacred music), jazz in Asia, history of instrumental women in jazz