Serene (pianist)

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Serene is an American classical concert pianist[1] and technologist who created the Snowflake transport mechanism which was used heavily by Tor.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Serene is ethnically Chinese and spent her childhood in a variety of regions within North America.[1] As a pianist, she is largely self-taught; she also taught herself to write code at age 9.[3] She attended Carnegie Mellon University, graduating with a degree in computer science[1] in 2012.

Career in software[edit]

She worked as the first engineer for technology incubator Google Ideas,[4] now Jigsaw LLC. While a senior fellow at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, California, she was a recipient of the Open Technology Fund’s Information Controls Fellowship, where she created Snowflake,[5][6] a pluggable transport enabling censorship circumvention for The Tor Project as its first use-case.

She is the founder of Snowstorm, the rearchitected V2 and commercialization of the Snowflake transport technology. In July 2023, Snowstorm finished its seed round of $3 million.[7] Snowflake came to prominence when the Tor network began using it to prevent hostile actors from blocking access to Tor.[8][9][10]

Serene is an advisory board member of the World Ethical Data Foundation.[11]

Career as a musician[edit]

As of 2021, SERENE is a Bösendorfer Artist,[3] the sole non-conservatory pianist with such an affiliation.[12] She presented her Bösendorfer debut with the symphony at the Vienna Konzerthaus.[13]

Serene has given performances at both concert halls and such non-traditional settings as San Francisco's Golden Gate Park and inside a decommissioned Boeing 747 at Burning Man.[3] She received a composition credit on Kanye West’s opera Mary (2019).[1] She has released two EPs: Unraveling (2019), a collection of piano works by Maurice Ravel, and Rachmaninoff Concert No. 3 (2020). She experiences synesthesia[3] and has written code to project abstract, moving visualizations behind her performances.[14][15][16] She also has collaborated with Blue Man Group founder Chris Wink on music-technology projects and social-distanced events at Las Vegas's AREA15.


  1. ^ a b c d "Serene". Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Musicians. Retrieved 18 December 2021.
  2. ^ Küchemann, Fridtjof. "Zugang für Iraner: Per Snowflake ins TOR-Netzwerk". FAZ.NET (in German). ISSN 0174-4909. Retrieved 2023-02-15.
  3. ^ a b c d Sylvan, Edward. "Serene On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Music Industry". Medium. Authority Magazine. Retrieved 18 December 2021.
  4. ^ Bratton, Benjamin H. (2015). The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. p. 592. ISBN 978-0-262-02957-5.
  5. ^ McDevitt, Dan (18 March 2017). "Information Controls Fellows Reflect On Their ICFP Experience". Open Technology Fund. Retrieved 18 December 2021.
  6. ^ "Wie eine Ex-Google-Ingenieurin dabei hilft, Internet-Zensur zu umgehen". (in German). 12 February 2023. Retrieved 17 February 2023.
  7. ^ Shu, Catherine (19 July 2023). "Snowstorm raises seed to keep the internet free". TechCrunch. Retrieved 22 August 2023.
  8. ^ Castro, Chiara (1 March 2023). "Snowstorm: the bridge to reconnect a splintering web". TechRadar. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  9. ^ Binder, Matt (10 February 2023). "Snowflake helped Tor users thwart Russian censorship. Now the VPN is branching out as Snowstorm". Mashable. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  10. ^ Newman, Jared (8 February 2023). "Snowstorm is a censorship-blocking VPN that might actually work". Fast Company. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  11. ^ Moreno, Johan. "As The Internet Freedom Project Expands, Snowflake Becomes Snowstorm". Forbes. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  12. ^ "Serene". Boesendorfer.
  13. ^ Nachrichten, Salzburger (22 May 2023). "Vom Computer ans Klavier: Pianistin Serene im Konzerthaus". Salzburger Nachrichten (in German). Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  14. ^ "Pianist Brings Innovation, Master Class in Instrumental Expression to Groton". Groton. Retrieved 22 December 2021.
  15. ^ "Pianist Serene Performs Virtually at Groton School". Groton Herald. 2 November 2021. Retrieved 17 February 2023.
  16. ^ Millstein, Lincoln (17 January 2023). "Self-taught pianist Serene to perform at Grace Farms". CT Insider.

External links[edit]