Tonia Ko, composer
American composer Tonia Ko has been lauded for her bold and original compositions. Her work strives to capture the poetics and emotions behind small visual details in everyday life. Ms. Ko was selected to participate in the 2017 Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, which culminates with a performance of her work by the Minnesota Orchestra. Recent commissions include a piece for cello and piano to be premiered on the Leaf Peeper Concert Series, commissioned by Clarion Concerts in Columbia County, and a work for violin and piano inspired by Beethoven’s ten sonatas. The work will be premiered at the University of North Carolina by violinist Nick DeEugenio and pianist Mimi Solomon. As the 2015-2017 Young Concert Artists Composer-in-Residence, she received a commission to write a work for pianist Daniel Lebhardt, who premiered the work in his recital debuts in the Young Concert Artists Series in New York and at the Kennedy Center last season. Her second YCA commission will be premiered by oboist Olivier Stankiewicz this season in the Young Concert Artists Series in New York and Washington, DC.
As recipient of the 2015-2016 New York Youth Symphony First Music Commission for orchestra, Ms. Ko’s “Strange Sounds and Explosions Worldwide” was premiered by the Symphony in Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall in March 2016. She was selected for Volti’s Choral Arts Lab in San Francisco, which included the commission and premiere of a piece for chamber choir in May 2016. Ms. Ko’s “Between Us” for cello and mezzo-soprano was premiered in February 2016 at National Sawdust, presented as part of HOWL’s production of “Araby,” a show based on the James Joyce short story by the same name. Her works have also been performed by the FLUX Quartet, orkest de ereprijs, ensemble mise-en, the Indiana University New Music Ensemble, Eastman Wind Ensemble, Luna Nova New Music Ensemble, and Morse Code, among others. Her music has been featured in U.S. festivals including the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Tanglewood Music Center, Aspen Music Festival, Wellesley Composers Conference, as well as at the Young Composers Meeting at Apeldoorn in the Netherlands, American Conservatory in Fontainebleau, and Shanghai Conservatory New Music Week.
Recipient of a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and BMI Student Composer Awards in 2015 and 2016, Ms. Ko’s works have been recognized by the Renee B. Fisher Foundation, Lin Yao Ji International Competition, New Music USA, International Alliance for Women in Music, Austin Peay State University, Chinese Fine Arts Society, and the Belvedere Chamber Music Festival. She is a three-time winner of the Eastman School of Music’s Louis Lane Prize, and won the Rapee Sagarik Prize at the 2014 Thailand International Composers Competition. She is recipient of a Copland House residency award and was selected to complete a residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in 2016. She currently holds the William B. Butz Composer Chair.
As a visual artist, Ms. Ko focuses on drawings and paintings that are abstract, organic, and lyrical. In March 2015, an installation entitled Breath, Contained opened under the Sibley Dome at Cornell University— featuring both a traditional exhibition as well as live electronics to explore bubble wrap as a flexible medium for art and music. Recent interdisciplinary collaborations include songs for the musical Lady Macbeth, performed by the Perry Chiu Experimental Theatre at the Sheung Wan Civic Center in Hong Kong; and a piece for the Periapsis Music and Dance company in Brooklyn.
Born in Hong Kong and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Ms. Ko is currently a doctoral candidate at Cornell University where she won the 2014 Otto R. Stahl Memorial Award and has worked with Steven Stucky and Kevin Ernste. She received her Master’s degree from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where she was awarded the 2011 Georgina Joshi Commission Prize, and her Bachelor’s degree from the Eastman School of Music.
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