Rita (Fang-Yuh) Chen Kuo, a longtime resident of Edgemont, died June 27 after a brief illness.
Born in Taipei, Taiwan, on March 21, 1941 to Dr. and Mrs. Liang-Tsang Chen, she grew up in Taiwan, first in Chiayi and then in Taipei, earning a B.S. in pharmacy in 1964 at National Taiwan University.
She moved to New York City in 1965 where she became the first Taiwanese to study at The Juilliard School, receiving a diploma in 1967 and postgraduate diploma in 1968 in piano. At Juilliard she studied piano with James Friskin, Martin Canin and Rosina Lhevinne, the famous pedagogue, and composition with Bernard Wagenaar. Her music training fully realized, she shared her musical gifts as performer, composer, teacher, writer and leader of organizations.
Mrs. Kuo moved to Edgemont in 1974 where she lived for the rest of her life. From this home base, she performed throughout the New York City area and her native Taiwan, including notable performances with the Juilliard Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, Taiwan Symphony Orchestra and the Taipei City Symphony Orchestra.
In 2001 she founded and toured with the Global Harmony Ensemble in the U.S., Canada and Taiwan. As a composer, she wrote pieces for piano and for voice that were premiered in the U.S. and Taiwan. She often incorporated traditional Taiwanese and Chinese folk songs into compositions.
Mrs. Kuo also taught piano privately for more than 45 years and at the Westchester Conservatory of Music where she recently became emerita. Her family said her students adored her and they remember her “lively voice, her tireless dedication, and her attention to detail and preparation as they learned to love music as much as she did.” She never retired and taught piano full time right up to her final illness.
Mrs. Kuo strongly supported music education and held leadership roles in the New York State Music Teachers Association, National Music Teachers Association and Westchester Musician’s Guild. She was a founding member of the Westchester Taiwanese Women’s Association and a life member of the Scarsdale Woman’s Club, where she was recitalist for many years. She also often invited virtuosic jazz and classical musical colleagues to join her in performances at the club.
Her accolades were many, including the Outstanding Achievement Award for the Arts from the YWCA White Plains & Central Westchester in 2002, the Dynamic Achiever Award from the OCA Westchester & Hudson Valley chapter in 2002, Outstanding Taiwanese American from the Taiwanese American Archives in 2018, and the Outstanding Alumni Award from the National Taiwan University School of Pharmacy in 2020.
In her spare time, she enjoyed travel, walking and photography, frequently with her husband of 55 years, Dr. Zane Chi-Yen Kuo, at her side. Most days they spent time walking around Swan Lake at the Rockefeller State Park Preserve.
A lifelong Catholic, Mrs. Kuo worshipped at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Hartsdale. She was a phenomenal cook who never used a cookbook, her family said, and she welcomed everyone into her home “as if they were already lifelong friends. Everyone remembers her boundless energy, warmth and endless youth.”
Her family said she was immensely proud of the many accomplishments of her immediate and large extended family. She is survived by her husband; her sons, Edwin Kuo (Joan) of Pleasantville, New York, and Dennis Kuo (Kathrine) of Amherst, New York; and her grandchildren, Rebecca, Amanda and Alex. She is also survived by her brother Richard; her sisters, Grace, Lorraine, Elizabeth and Anita; and many nieces and nephews. A private ceremony is planned with a memorial service at a later date. Contributions in her name may be made to New York State Music Teachers Association District 4 to support the Rita Chen Kuo Memorial Fund for young musicians (https://bit.ly/2ZqCkcN) or to the Friends of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve, friendsrock.org/membership-and-donation.