Make your Hollywood Bowl debut — if you win Ray Chen’s violin video contest

Violinist Ray Chen, performing in London, and the L.A. Phil are holding a competition called Play With Ray, which offers the chance to play onstage with Chen at the Hollywood Bowl on Aug. 8.
(Tim P. Whitby / Getty Images)

If playing violin for 18,000 people at the Hollywood Bowl is your dream and not the nightmare you had last night, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is heading your way: The Los Angeles Philharmonic and world-renowned violinist Ray Chen are expected to announce Friday the Play With Ray competition, the winner of which will perform Bach’s Double Concerto alongside Chen on Aug. 8 at the Bowl.

The contest is open to non-professional violinists of all ages internationally. The idea is one that Chen has been nursing for some time. The 30-year-old former child prodigy has become known for his savvy use of social media in service of making classical music more accessible to young people and expanding the reach of the art form.

Chen plans to promote the competition to his 130,000 Instagram followers (and his 15,000-plus Twitter followers too), and he’s encouraging all kinds of players to participate.

“The idea was always about community,” Chen said over the phone from a retreat on the border of Germany and Austria. “The classical music community is a very small one. You know everybody, and, sometimes, it gets a little competitive. I feel like there could be more done to help people within this industry.”


Chen chose to pitch his idea to the L.A. Phil because of its worldwide reputation as a progressive institution with an edgy vibe, one that’s at the forefront of where classical music and technology collide.

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“So it was a dream come true when they said, ‘Yeah, let’s go for it, and let’s do it at the Hollywood Bowl,’” Chen said.

Contestants will submit a video of themselves playing along with a personal essay. The essay will help Chen and fellow judges from the L.A. Phil get a full picture of the applicant.


Chen said he would love to discover a young talent who dreams of becoming a professional musician, or an older person who had to give up the dream but is still passionate about music and practices on a regular basis.

“I want to give them the opportunity to make that dream sparkle,” Chen said.

Three finalists will fly to L.A. in early August, play with Chen and attend master classes and concerts. Rare violins will be provided for use by the auction house Tarisio, which specializes in stringed instruments and bows.

One winner then will be picked to accompany Chen and the L.A. Phil onstage at the Hollywood Bowl. Chen said he chose Bach’s Double Concerto because it’s one of the first pieces many students learn in chamber music.


“It’s fun and enjoyable to play, and you get it to play with someone, which kind of takes the edge off when you’re onstage in front of 18,000 people,” Chen said.

For more information, and to submit an entry, go to The contest closes May 1.

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