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. As the 2015-2017 Young Concert Artists Composer-in-Residence, Ms. Ko received two commissions to write works for the debuts of both pianist Daniel Lebhardt and oboist Olivier Stankiewicz. These works were premiered in 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. Her work Moves and Remains premieres in the Young Concert Artists in New York and Washington, DC this season, by violinist Benjamin Baker and pianist Daniel Lebhardt.
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. As recipient of a New York Youth Symphony First Music Commission for orchestra, Strange Sounds and Explosions Worldwide was premiered in Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall. Recent commissions include a work for the Spektral Quartet through a grant from Chamber Music America’s Classical Commissioning program, a piano four-hands piece to be premiered by HOCKET, and a piece for violin solo, commissioned by Hayden’s Ferry Chamber Music Series. Other works will be performed at Indiana State University, by Arizona State University’s Orchestra, and by Da Capo Chamber Players.
Recipient of a 2017 commission from Harvard University’s Fromm Music Foundation, Ms. Ko has also received a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and two BMI Student Composer Awards, 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, was selected to complete a residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and will be in residence at the MacDowell Colony in 2018.
Other recent commissions are works for cellist Edward Arron and pianist Jeewon Park; for violin and piano inspired by Beethoven’s ten sonatas which premiered at the University of North Carolina by violinist Nick DeEugenio and pianist Mimi Solomon; a piece for chamber choir as part of Volti’s Choral Arts Lab in San Francisco; Between Us for cello and mezzo-soprano, which premiered 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, and at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Tanglewood Music Center, Aspen Music Festival, Wellesley Composers Conference, Young Composers Meeting at Apeldoorn (Netherlands), American Conservatory in Fontainebleau, and Shanghai Conservatory New Music Week.
As a visual artist, Ms. Ko focuses on drawings and paintings that are abstract, organic, and lyrical, including an installation entitled Breath, Contained, opened under the Sibley Dome at Cornell University and featuring 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 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.
PLEASE NOTE: If you would like to include this biography in a concert program, please contact YCA to make sure that you have the most up-to-date version.