Introducing Eliza Ching, staff pianist for James Dunham’s studio


Where are you from?

San Leandro, CA.

Are you a current Rice student? If not, what is your association with Rice?

No, I’m not a current student, but I did get my undergraduate degree from Rice in Piano Performance.

Why did you choose to play piano?

I actually started on the violin at age four, but I’ve been told I refused to play anything in tune after the first time through a piece. So for everyone’s sake my parents switched me to piano when I was six.

Where and with whom have you previously studied, and who is your current teacher?

Robert Roux, BM, Rice University
Sara Davis Buechner, MM, Manhattan School of Music
Rita Sloan, DMA in Collaborative Piano, University of Maryland, College Park

Where have you previously worked?

During the summers I’ve been staff pianist at either the Heifetz International Music Institute or Aspen Music Festival. I also spent a year as staff pianist at the North Carolina School of the Arts and a semester at The University of Texas at Austin.

What are your favorite viola pieces and why?

My recent favorite has been Hindemith’s 1939 Sonata, since it’s just such an awesome piece! It also doesn’t get played that often, which I’m sure violists can understand adds to the appeal.

What do you like about Rice and the Shepherd School of Music?

The best thing about the Shepherd School is the people here. I couldn’t want more from the supportive community, the great faculty and students and administration, and the general vibe. It doesn’t hurt that everyone sounds great too!

Who are your favorite violists and why?

I really enjoyed working with Thomas Riebl for several weeks over the past few summers. His insight into music and life in general is inspiring to be around.

Best awkward performance experience?

The best awkward situation has to be once when I played a recital at a local high school. For the concert they provided me with a page-turner, which I thought was wonderful. After I walked out with the performer and bowed and sat down, I noticed the page-turner didn’t have a chair. I asked her quietly if she needed to get one and she said, “No, it’s ok,” so I thought she was happy to stand. It was already a bit awkward, but I wasn’t going to insist in front of an audience. We started playing the sonata, and after the first page turn I realized the page-turner had no intention of standing! She took a seat right next to me on the piano bench! I played the entire piece that way, with her perched on the back corner of my piano bench. I kept bumping into her but thought the whole thing was hysterical.

If you didn’t play the piano, what instrument would you play?

If I could do it all again, I would play the cello. Sorry violists!

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