Student Spotlight: Aileen (Ping-Chen) Shen

The tenth-semester DJ and producer talks about discovering her passion for electronic performance after being trained in classical percussion and explains how international travel influences her musical voice.

July 31, 2023

What’s it like to study at Berklee? Our Student Spotlight series asks current students all about their Berklee experience—what they’re learning in class, what kinds of projects they’re involved in onstage or behind the scenes, how they recharge, and of course, what they’re listening to.This week, get to know Aileen (Ping Chen) Shen, who performs under the name DJ ALYN. Aileen is a tenth-semester percussionist, producer, and DJ from Tainan, Taiwan, about to complete her double major in music production and engineering (MP&E) and electronic production and design (EPD) with a minor in electronic performance.

Follow Aileen on Instagram.

Tell us about your path to Berklee. What made you decide to come here?

Growing up multicultural in Taiwan, Macao, Shanghai, Japan, and the UK, and trained as a classical percussionist from a young age, a traditional conservatory was more in line with my career goals at the time. However, I was inspired by different cultures and art forms such as dance, theater, music technology, electroacoustic music, and more. I decided to come to the US when I saw that Boston Conservatory was merged with Berklee, which would make it possible to express my creativity to the fullest potential. I also valued the diversity of culture at the college. Later on, Berklee expanded my horizons to different paths in the music industry. I transferred to Berklee College of Music for production, engineering, sound design, and electronic music, and found my passion in electronic performance. 

Experiencing as much as possible of what Berklee can offer—and through that, finding my true passion—was the biggest project for me. Berklee felt like a candy store.

— Aileen (Ping Chen) Shen

What's been your favorite class so far, and what has it taught you?

Instead of naming the course, I think the professors are the key to making classes incredible. In production, Prince Charles Alexander and Patrick Viala brought me closest to the real world, teaching me to be as professional as possible to the current market while still conveying emotions to the audience. Jason Petrin, Richard Mendelson, and Mark Wessel taught me the knowledge and tools for mixing, producing, and engineering that can last for a lifetime. Daedelus brought the most out of me as an artist deeply rooted in dance culture; Zebbler Peter Berdovsky and Jason Dawson brought unique classes in VJ and DJ techniques to Berklee, which led me to my future career goal. Michele Darling and Rodney Alejandro are my closest mentors who get the best out of their students. Tonya Butler and Christopher Wares took care of my courses in legal and business related subjects. 

What's a project you've worked on since coming to Berklee that you've been especially excited about?

Experiencing as much as possible of what Berklee can offer—and through that, finding my true passion—was the biggest project for me. Berklee felt like a candy store. I have done a range of projects from coding for video games and visuals, surround sound mixing, immersive audio, AR/VR/XR, film and video game sound design and implementation, recording, producing, live sound engineering, lighting art, visual art for performance, stage management, photography, dance, producing, tutoring, joining Berklee professional show productions, collaborating with outside colleges such as MIT and Harvard for technology-related art projects, volunteering at a career seminar, student jobs, taking on a leadership role as president of the student DJ Club, inviting artists, holding shows, performing, and being a student ambassador to represent college and visit other campuses. After trying all of that, you may not find what you love, but you will figure out what career you might not be as passionate about, and it was through the processes of elimination that I found my true passion. 

How do you typically recharge or find new ideas outside of class? 

Art is related to life. I will travel to different countries to see the local cultures, how people express themselves through gestures such as art exhibitions, films, literature, photography, and languages, and by listening to what music is played by DJs and at shows. I am also a heavy vinyl collector; wherever I travel, I will visit record stores and ask the locals or the owner to introduce a record that represents them. You will be surprised how different musical languages were expressed through other lenses. After that, your interpretations and merging those with your musical sound is the most exciting part. 

What careers are you interested in pursuing in the future?

I would like to be an artist, DJ, and producer. What keeps me going for music is the performance aspect and interacting with audiences. You feel the power of music circling back and forth during the performance. Energy in the room moves everyone, and seeing the smile on their faces, connecting people with music and emotions, is the magic moment for me. I have so much story to tell through my experience of life and my curiosity for different sounds. I hope I can translate my passion for life and music through the speakers and connect with audiences. As a producer, I love to collaborate. Trying to bring the most authentic character of the artist out and make music that connects and lasts is exciting for me. 

When you think towards your own future, who inspires you most?

Thinking deeply, I thought of an artist called Yaeji. She's the person who brings a fresh sound to current electronic music, blending her own culture and Korean and English languages into her sound. It’s dance music with song form, with a whispery voice and catchy lyrics. Starting as a DJ, Yaeji represents the Asian girl’s face in the scene, with distinct artistry and a unique sound in her music. Being a pioneer, she inspired me to continue to pursue my dream to be an artist, representing my own voice and culture, and bridging rather underground electronic musical genres to mainstream audiences. She’s a role model for me and will continue to be. I hope one day I can get to perform with her.

What's one piece of advice you'd give to your high school self? 

Aileen, transfer to Berklee right now. Take the DJ/VJ class and produce. You know what is deep down in your heart; do what you love and are passionate about. Focus, and don’t let the world or other people’s sayings and opinions shake you. Go make music and perform. Smile!

Aileen’s Favorite Artists

We asked Aileen to pick five tracks by her top five favorite artists. Here’s what she said:

1. “Immaterial,” SOPHIE

The legend herself, bravely expressing herself and her identity through music. Her unique sound design blends boundaries of pop forms and electronic music imaginings. Influential across the fashion industry, pop, the dance music scene, and more, SOPHIE is considered a hyperpop pioneer. She will always be remembered and her sounds will live on.

2. “At All,” Kaytranada

Representing the Montreal scene of electronic music, Kaytranada blends hip-hop, house, and jazz, and is well known for this unique swing groove “pocket” inspired by J Dilla. He has been an inspiring figure for me, and following him from this early record and DJ set to his success now as multi-Grammy–winning producer truly inspired me, and I hope to follow his path.

3. “Raingurl,” Yaeji

The song blew Yaeji up—the Korean and English lyrics, the whispery voice and catchy phrases. Tight techno sounds signify her time and genre has come. My DJ peers and I all have this song in our lists, and it’s one of the most played tracks in final exams of Turntable Technique class at Berklee.

4. “Your Love 1984,” Frankie Knuckles

The godfather of house music. Frankie Knuckles brought house music into Chicago warehouses and later on influenced the world. This track has perhaps one of the most famous electronic music intros. You can hear the arpeggiated sound and the groovy bass in almost every documentary about house music. It also represents another important element of dance music: remix. It is almost the 10-year anniversary of his death—shout out to the legend himself.

5. “Smartphone I (手機仔(一)),” Crowd Lu

One of the most in-demand artists from my hometown Tainan, Taiwan. This record was sung in Taiwanese dialect, with acoustic guitar and elements of Chinese instruments such as the erhu. Crowd’s warm voice and illustrative lyrics tell the story of my town. Whenever I miss home, I will always pull up this record and feel recharged.

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