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Dr. Fen-Fang Chen with a pipa, a traditional Chinese instrument

Dr. Fen-Fang Chen Contemplates Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month

May 17, 2023

Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month is a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

The broad term, Asian/Pacific, encompasses all of the continent of Asia and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).

Dr. Fen-Fang Chen, Ph.D., D.A., Associate Professor of Music and Director of Piano and Keyboard Studies has been a Florida Southern College faculty member for nine years, but she was born in Miaoli, Taiwan.

Dr Chen Taiwan Junior Journey 1
Dr. Chen led students on a Junior Journey to Taiwan

She was not aware of Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month until recently. She has never formally observed it but would welcome the opportunity to take part in a celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islanders.

“It’s a great idea for others to recognize Asian American and Pacific Islanders, their existence, and their contributions to the United States,” Dr. Chen said. “More importantly, they are a part of United States. If there is an event that celebrates and introduces Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage to others, I would love to be a part of it.”

Dr. Chen is proud of her country and culture and wants people to know Taiwan is a democracy and a developed country.

“Taiwan is also called Formosa, which means “beautiful island,” Dr. Chen said. “In Taiwan, you can experience all different sceneries, from high mountains to white sand beaches, from the most modern city to the rural countryside, from the most expensive cuisine to the delicious street food. People there are open-minded and welcome visitors. Taiwan was the first to legalize gay marriage and the first to elect a woman president. Taiwan preserves the traditional Chinese cultures, such as ancient Asian religions, traditional Chinese characters, and Confucianism.”

Dr. Chen says people are very friendly in her home country and the different forms of public transportation are convenient in the big cities there. She feels the cost of living is very affordable, except for home prices.

She describes the food in Taiwan as incredible and says you can find all different kinds of international cuisine and traditional night market street food. Dr. Chen says Taiwan even has singing garbage trucks that play music out loud for people to listen to.  

The FSC professor did not plan to stay in the U.S. in the fall of 1997 when she came with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Traditional Chinese Music from the Chinese Culture University in Taipei, Taiwan and the pipa, a traditional Chinese musical instrument, as her major instrument. She only planned to earn her master’s degree when she arrived. She ended up staying and obtaining a Master of Music degree in Piano Performance from Indiana State University, a Doctor of Arts in Piano Pedagogy and a Doctor of Philosophy in Music Education from the University of Mississippi, and marrying her husband.

students on Junior Journey to Taiwan 2
Dr. Chen with students on a Junior Journey trip to Taiwan

She teaches piano, class piano, piano pedagogy, and pipa ensemble at Florida Southern. She has presented her research at many conferences and received the Outstanding Professional Research Poster Award from the Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy at the 2019 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy. As an active performer, Dr. Chen frequently plays both instruments, the pipa and the piano, at various recitals and concerts.

“I play a traditional Chinese instrument, the pipa, and I also love writing Chinese brush calligraphy,” she said. “I like road trips and making dessert. My favorite animal is the alligator.”   

Dr. Chen assisted four FSC students who received Fulbright Scholarships to Taiwan. She wrote three recommendations, served on campus interview committees, and edited grant purpose statements for students. Two of the students who went on Junior Journey trips with her to Taiwan, one in 2016 and the other in 2018, enjoyed the trip so much they decided to apply for Fulbright Scholarships to Taiwan.

“Back in 2002, I won the lottery for obtaining a green card,” Dr. Chen states, as she holds dual citizenship.

She keeps in touch with Kyle Torres’17 who stayed in Taiwan between 2017 and 2021. Torres originally went to Taiwan for Fulbright for two years and stayed two additional years on her own. Cesar Maldonado ‘21 and Grace Sill ’22 are currently in Taiwan on Fulbright awards. Dr. Chen and the students communicate by text frequently and she is planning to see them both when she goes to Taiwan in May.