Tonia Ko

Tonia Ko

Fellow: Awarded 2018
Field of Study: Music Composition

Competition: US & Canada

Tonia Ko’s creative evolution is largely guided by three conceptual pillars: texture, physical movement, and the relationship between melody and memory. These ideas permeate recent works across a variety of media—from instrumental solos and large ensemble pieces, to paintings and sound installations. No matter how traditional or experimental the medium, Ko’s work reveals a core that is at once whimsical, questioning, and lyrical.

Her music has been lauded by The New York Times for its “captivating” details and “vivid orchestral palette.” She has been commissioned by leading soloists and ensembles and performed at venues such as Walt Disney Concert Hall, Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, and the Tanglewood Music Center, Aspen Music Festival, and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Tonia has received grants and awards from the Fromm Foundation, Chamber Music America, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) as well as residencies at the MacDowell Colony, Copland House, and Djerassi. She served as the 2015-2017 Composer-in-Residence for Young Concert Artists.

Recent presenters of her work encompass a broad range of the music scene, including the Minnesota Orchestra, New York Youth Symphony, Los Angeles-based collective Wild Up, percussion/ cello duo New Morse Code, and Da Capo Chamber Players. Upcoming projects include a large-scale piece for the Spektral Quartet in conjunction with Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, a work for viola and electronics for Kurt Rohde, and Mapmakers, a chamber opera for five soloists.

In the attempt to follow her aural, visual, and tactile instincts in a holistic way, Ko increasingly mediates between the identities of composer, sound artist, and visual artist. This has sparked interdisciplinary connections— most prominently “Breath, Contained”, an ongoing project using bubble wrap as a canvas for both art and sound. Beyond the concert hall, her work has been supported by Studios at MASS MoCA. She has collaborated with performance artist Kale Roberts, Periapsis Music and Dance, and Perry Chiu Experimental Theatre.

Born in Hong Kong in 1988 and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Ko earned degrees from Eastman School of Music and Indiana University. She holds a DMA from Cornell University, where she studied with Steven Stucky and Kevin Ernste.

Hush for cello and percussion (2012)
From Ivory Depths for mixed chorus (2016)
Highwire for oboe and electronics (2017)

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