Ann Chao was born into a Chinese immigrant family in Queens, NY and grew up watching her parents pursue the American Dream of professional success and a good education. They put themselves through community college, working in restaurants, moving up to careers on Wall Street and in the United Nations. Chao’s musical talent drove her ambitions; she began playing the piano at the age of five and she took up the flute at nine years old. Her musical talents and educational experience helped her get into Harvard University for undergrad and then she pursued a Harvard MBA. During her time at Harvard she changed direction, from a traditional business path which would lead to a job consulting to a more nontraditional path in the entertainment realm.
As the CEO of Sonation she is now living the entrepreneurial dream, combining her business training with her passion for music, allowing young people to pursue their own musical dreams. Ann and her team members are all musicians and they know what it feels like to fall in love with music. They noticed there weren’t any apps out there that really deliver that joy for musicians. So they set out to create one. Sonation’s mobile app, Cadenza, allows the user play with a full orchestra that’s personalized to their style and tempo.
Chao’s work combines her love of music with a global vision. Her goal is to help people become better musicians and enable greater self-expression through technology.
“My personal mission is to make beautiful experiences more accessible for people around the world. I work on technologies and products that have an impact on the soul,” she said.
The feedback she receives from young musicians who use the Cadenza app are inspirational. One high school student from Detroit waited for almost two years to get the correct equipment to use the app and then wrote this review: “I pulled out my violin, tuned, and clicked on Bruch Violin Concerto Mvmt. 1. I was so excited. It was everything I hoped for, plus more. When I slowed down, the orchestra slowed down. If I rushed, it rushed along as well. After I finished, it recorded and saved my performance.” This positive feedback pushes Ann and her team to continue to develop meaningful technology centered around music.
Sonation’s second mobile app, Millennium Trumpet, lets users experience the most iconic movie themes of all time – the Star Wars Main Theme and Imperial March – as if they were on stage with John Williams.
She looks forward to continuing to being a bridge between business, technology, and creative. Chao said, “I’m passionate about unlocking creativity everywhere. At Sonation we do that with music — enabling anyone, from little kids just starting out to world-renowned performers, to make music like they want it to sound. You play your part, and the rest of the music magically surrounds you in perfect time.”
photo courtesy of youtube