Dr. Brian Kai Chin is an accomplished musician and academic leader whose vision focuses on encouraging students to become cultural leaders.

Musician and educator, Dr. Brian Kai Chin, is making his way to the University of Houston’s Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts as the Director of Moores School of Music. Trained in Western classical, jazz, and world traditions, Chin’s musical focus is only part of his larger vision as the new director. As a passionate advocate for evolution in music education, he strives to create pedagogical systems that can speak to the fundamentals of lifelong growth and creativity — believing that serving other artists can be the best vehicle for recruiting a new generation committed to bringing people together through music. 

“Intentional music and arts education for all people is perhaps the best way to create positive change for our future. One of the reasons I'm excited about the University of Houston is I see it perfectly poised for that next level of engagement and how beautifully it correlates to my personal mission. The systems that I'm hoping to help build here, the students I'm hoping to help, and the programs we're going to grow are all part of this big life mission that I have,” said Chin. 

Chin is no stranger to a collegiate community, Born and raised in Idaho, Chin’s father is a doctor and worked at the University of Idaho. “I grew up in a university town and setting. So, being on campus and in Houston is familiar to me and I feel like I’m home,” says Chin. 

Thanks to a pawn shop, he got his hands on a trumpet in third grade, but it wasn’t until junior high that he took a deep dive into music. “It was in sixth grade when I really started to play, and I fell in love almost immediately. I did exactly what my teachers told me to do: and that was to practice every day for 30 minutes.” 

Because of his determination and diligence, Chin excelled and began to take private lessons. By the time he entered seventh grade, he was playing in the ninth-grade band.  

“I had a very inspirational early experience when I was playing in a band that happened to have a whole bunch of percussionists. My band director had to commission a new piece of music and had to figure out what to do with all these musicians, while also including them in the experience. I remember this so vividly because I was excited about being a part of the creative process. Putting together something new and sharing that with the community was exciting. Everything I've done since that moment comes back in some way to those early experiences.” 

Not only did Chin get insight into the creative processes at an early age, but he also began to teach. “I was involved from a very early age and started teaching when I was in seventh grade. When school ended for the day, I would go and help with the sixth graders.” 

Chin anticipated becoming a doctor in his father’s footsteps. However, throughout his adolescence, music beckoned. “I was preparing to enter college pre-med, but I had the realization that I could help people more with my gift in music than I could as a doctor. I think this was illustrated so clearly during the pandemic. Mental health goes hand in hand with physical health. Loneliness is an epidemic and most people experienced this throughout COVID-19. Music by nature brings people together even if you’re just listening to it on your phone.” 

During the second year of his master’s degree, Chin went to his first professional audition. “I wasn’t expecting to win. I was just going to practice, show up, and see what it was all about. To my surprise, I won, and all my professors were like, take it!” 

Chin’s audition earned him the spot of principal trumpet player for the Symphony Tacoma Orchestra. During his time in Seattle, he made a living as a professional trumpet player with the Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle Opera, and the Seattle Symphony. Simultaneously, he taught and freelanced in everything from movies to video games.  

“Towards the time I turned 30, I had a mentor urge me to get a doctoral degree. While pursuing that, I rediscovered the love I had for academia and reawakened my original calling towards music. Which was less about cranking out a living as a freelancer and more about creating, contributing , and making a positive impact. As I went through school to obtain my Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Washington, I began teaching at Seattle Pacific University. Over some time, Seattle Pacific began to ask me to teach more and more classes. From there, it snowballed, and I became a one-year appointment visiting professor. Flash forward some time and I became the chair of the department. When I became interested in academia, my plan wasn’t to be in administration. I wanted to stay working with students in the trenches, but I realized shortly after becoming chair of music that I was able to contribute more in that capacity — so I just jumped all in.” 

Chin’s hope as Director of the Moores School of Music, is to help build a program that can prepare young artists for the abstract and complex 21st-century world. “By maximizing the University of Houston’s heritage and leading innovation for the future, my hope is to work alongside the faculty of the Moores School of Music and inspire a true evolution in arts education.”