Entertainment & Arts

Hollywood Bowl contest to play with violinist Ray Chen yields the weird and wonderful

Violinist Ray Chen plays with the Bamberg Symphony, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, during a rece
Violinist Ray Chen, photographed playing at UCLA with the Bamberg Symphony.
(Reed Hutchinson )

After the Los Angeles Philharmonic launched its “Play With Ray” competition, offering a chance to play with star violinist Ray Chen onstage at the Hollywood Bowl, the entries came rolling in — more than 800 of them from 73 countries, submitted by eager amateurs ranging in age from 6 to 76.

The competition, announced in late March, calls for one lucky winner to play Bach’s Double Concerto alongside Chen at the Bowl on Aug. 8. The promise of that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity sent applicants scrambling to catch the judges’ attention — be it through mastery of their craft, some creative videotaped performances, or both.

Ten-year-old Nesya Fertel from Maryland submitted a YouTube video featuring herself playing next to a Ray Chen sock puppet, complete with spiky black hair and a tiny bow and violin.


The award for strangest application just might go to Evelyn Welch, 21, from New York, who posted an Instagram video of her alternating between CPR on a manikin and playing violin with practiced ease.

“Bach’s Concerto for two violins and mannequin — perfect way to polish my BLS skills while practicing for #playwithray,” she posted.

A full-size cardboard cut-out of a wild-eyed Chen plays a leading role in 15-year-old Sana Heaven’s submission. Heaven, who is from British Columbia, plays beside the cut-out and occasionally engages with it, as if it were the real Chen. When the video is over she gives cardboard Chen a celebratory bow-bump.


Cuteness (and talent) spill over in an Instagram post by Haru Nakamura, 10, from Japan. Just watch this video to see for yourself.

The scenery is at its finest in a video by dapper Juan Jose Peña Aguirre, 9, from Switzerland. The snowcapped mountains in the background serve as the perfect accompaniment to a grand performance.

And Herman Baiatian, 23, from Ukraine has some video-making fun complete with a photo of a deer and some clever captioning.

There are hundreds of these video to peruse should the urge strike. Just search for “Play With Ray” on YouTube, Instagram or Facebook.


Three finalists will be flown to L.A. in early August, and one winner will land onstage at the Bowl with Chen.

Get our daily Entertainment newsletter