Tonia Ko, composer
American composer Tonia Ko’s music has been praised by The New York Times for its “captivating” details and “vivid orchestral palette”. Her fascination with texture and physical movement play into a larger theme of the relationship between visual art and music. Ms. Ko’s commissions this season include a work for piano four-hands to be premiered by HOCKET, and a piece for violin solo, commissioned by Hayden’s Ferry Chamber Music Series, to be performed on his debut U.S. recital tour. Ms. Ko has also received a commission from the Spektral Quartet, through a grant from Chamber Music America’s Classical Commissioning program. Other works will be performed at Indiana State University, by Arizona State University’s Orchestra, and by Da Capo Chamber Players. Other works by Ms. Ko will be performed around the country, at Indiana State University, in Chicago and at Arizona State University and also in New York by Da Capo Chamber Players.
Ms. Ko has participated in the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, culminating in a performance of her work by the orchestra with their Music Director Osmo Vänskä. Recent commissions include a work written for cellist Edward Arron and pianist Jeewon Park, and a work for violin and piano inspired by Beethoven’s ten sonatas, 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 two commissions to write works for the debuts of both pianist Daniel Lebhardt and oboist Olivier Stankiewicz. These works were premiered in their recital debuts in the Young Concert Artists Series in New York, at Merkin Concert Hall and in Washington, D.C at the Kennedy Center, to critical acclaim.
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 has received grants and awards from Chamber Music America and her 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. Tonia was recently chosen as a Fellows in CULTIVATE, the Copland House’s acclaimed, annual emerging composers institute, and was selected to complete a residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts.
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 holds a DMA from 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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