J. Clara Chan is a 22-year-old journalist based in Washington, D.C. She is an editorial fellow covering culture at The Atlantic. Previously, she was the managing editor of the Columbia Daily Spectator and an intern at New York Magazine, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and TheWrap. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Barnard College of Columbia University in 2018.
At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Clara investigated college counseling malpractice at high schools in a low-income school district in Memphis, Tennessee, ultimately leading the school county board to begin its own investigation into the matter. She also analyzed backlash to the lack of diversity in the medieval studies field, resulting in a number of prominent scholarly groups and medieval conferences to release statements detailing how they would increase efforts to improve diversity.
As the managing editor of the Columbia Daily Spectator from 2016-2017, Clara was responsible for overseeing and editing all content for Columbia University’s independent daily newspaper, weekly magazine, and blog. She helped revamp the blog into a service journalism platform and relaunch a web product to aid students during housing selection.
Before serving as the managing editor, Clara was the lead reporter covering Barnard College. She uncovered five years worth of formal complaints made to Barnard administrators that the director of Barnard's career development office created a sexist and toxic work environment for employees. She also led coverage of Barnard's controversial winter break housing policy, leading the college to reverse the policy and provide housing for more low-income and international students. Her analysis of the complications of implementing Barnard’s transgender admissions policy and the confusion surrounding the policy’s vague wording also resulted in the admissions office publicly clarifying how it would enforce the policy.
Outside of her Barnard coverage, Clara also conducted and wrote two data-driven investigations into Columbia's compliance with a provision in the Higher Education Opportunity Act. The publication of the first article prompted the provost to publicly compel faculty to comply with the law, and compliance rates increased by 20 percent a year after the first piece was published.
In 2016, Clara covered the media and entertainment industry as an editorial intern at TheWrap in Los Angeles. There, she reported on allegations of overtime abuse in the animation studio for Seth Rogen's 2016 film Sausage Party and independently obtained and published a letter that animators sent to management detailing their complaints. She also broke the site's record for fastest traffic-driving piece that summer for her story on comments that Clint Eastwood made about Donald Trump.
Clara began studying the violin at the age of four with Li Lin and viola at the age of 15 with Jodi Levitz at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Pre-College. She made her orchestral solo debut at age 11 as the winner of the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra’s Concerto Competition. In the summer of 2014, she made her international solo debut in Courmayeur, Italy, where she performed the Rebecca Clarke Viola Sonata with pianist Mack McCray. She is the winner of the 2013 Northern California Viola Society Young Violists Competition and a prizewinner in the Chinese Music Teachers’ Association Competition.
Clara is an avid chamber and orchestral musician. She has performed in the Yehudi Menuhin Chamber Music Seminar, Music at Kohl Mansion, and Chamber Music Day at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. She has also participated in masterclasses with the Miró Quartet, the St. Lawrence Quartet, the Ying Quartet, the Alexander String Quartet, and more. In 2014, her quartet won the Galante Prize. From 2013-2014, she was the Associate Principal Violist of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. As a member of SFSYO, she went on the 2012 European Tour and performed in locations such as Berlin, Munich, Salzburg, and more. A recording of the SFSYO performing Mahler's Symphony No. 1 at the Berlin Philharmonie is available on the San Francisco Symphony label. She served as the principal violist of the Columbia University Orchestra from 2015-2018.
She has also performed benefit concerts for Broadway by the Bay; the Museum of Music Making in San Diego, honoring Ravi Shankar; and the San Francisco Symphony Auxiliary. She has appeared on the KTSF 26 Evening News, BBC World News, and the K11 Art Mall in Hong Kong. She has also participated in the Music@Menlo Chamber Music Festival and Institute, the Aspen Music Festival and School, and the Zephyr International Chamber Music Festival in Italy. She can be found in a YouTube video with her brother, cellist Nathan Chan, performing a duo that currently has over 802,000 views.
Clara studied with Karen Ritscher as a member of the Barnard-Manhattan School of Music exchange program.