Guests for 2017

Tonia Ko

The music of Tonia Ko (b. 1988) has been lauded by The New York Times for its “captivating” details and “vivid orchestral palette.”  As a composer, she has been commissioned by leading soloists and ensembles, and performed at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, and the Tanglewood, Aspen, and Santa Fe Chamber Music festivals.  Tonia has received grants and awards from Chamber Music America, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, BMI, Composers Now, International Alliance for Women in Music, as well as residencies at Copland House, Djerassi, Pocantico Center, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, and Atlantic Center for the Arts. She served as the 2015-2017 Composer-in-Residence for Young Concert Artists.

Her interests in texture and physical movement play into a larger theme of interdependency between visual art and music. No matter how traditional or experimental the medium, Tonia’s creative work reveals a core that is at once whimsical, questioning, and lyrical. Recent presenters of her work encompass a broad range of the contemporary music scene, including the Minnesota Orchestra, oboist Olivier Stankiewicz,  Chelsea Music Festival, Cantata Profana, and Tenth Intervention.

Tonia’s burgeoning practice as a visual artist have sparked interdisciplinary connections— most prominently “Breath, Contained”, an ongoing project using bubble wrap as a canvas for both art and sound. Out of this concept, she also develops interactive installations and sound sculptures, most recently supported by the Studios at MASS MoCA.  Beyond the concert hall, she has collaborated with performance artist Kale Roberts, Periapsis Music and Dance, and Perry Chiu Experimental Theatre.

Born in Hong Kong and raised in Honolulu, Tonia 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. Tonia currently lives and works in Lawrence, Kansas.

Kate Neal

Kate Neal (b. 1972) is an artist with over 20 years experience as a composer, arranger, teacher, artistic director and collaborator. Since 2006 (with the premiere of the scored ballet, Concave City) she has been incorporating extra-musical parameters within the notation of a musical score, such as physical gesture, design, light and movement. The result is a musical language that extends the existing techniques of the performing musician, and creates a synthesis of experience for audiences where music is to be seen and heard: the performative aspect of the work is as important as the aural.

In 2017 Neal premiered new works for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Sound Collectors, Arcadia Winds and SO Percussion. In 2016 Neal won the Beleura Award for Composition as part of the Melbourne Music Prize, as well as Performance and Instrumental Work of the Year at the Art Music Awards for her work Semaphore.

In 2015 Neal was the recipient of an Australia Council for the Arts Fellowship, allowing her to compose six substantial works over two years. In 2013 Neal returned from the US to take a one-year position as Composer in Residence for the Four Winds Festival. From 2009-2013 Neal was a Graduate Fellow at Princeton University in the USA, and from 2007-2000 she was based in the UK. Neal currently (2017) teaches composition at the VCA Melbourne.

Neal holds a BMus (VCA, Melbourne); BMus/MMus (RC, The Hague); PGDip (non-western music, SC, Amsterdam); PGDip (RNCM, Manchester) and is a current PhD Graduate Fellow at Princeton University. Neal makes work across a variety of genres and art-forms and has a long-term collaboration with animator Sal Cooper.

Carl Schimmel

Carl Schimmel is a composer based in Iowa and Illinois. Praised by The New York Times as “vivid and dramatic,” his recent music is dense with literary and musical references, often humorous, and combines intensity of expression with a structural rigor which draws upon his mathematics background. In infusing his music with extra-musical influences such as poetry, art, and even unusual words, he strives to construct nexuses of experience which reflect both the inner life of emotions and the outer physical world which shapes us and is shaped by us.

Winner of Columbia University’s Joseph Bearns Prize, the Lee Ettelson Award, and the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Schimmel has received honors and awards from many organizations, including the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Copland House, New Music USA, and ASCAP. His works have been performed in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall, Merkin Hall in New York, Severance Hall in Cleveland, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London, Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, and at other venues throughout North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. He has received performances and commissions from the California EAR Unit, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, the Minnesota Orchestra, North/South Consonance, saxophonist Taimur Sullivan, the Da Capo Chamber Players, Lucy Shelton, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and many others. He is currently Associate Professor of Music Theory and Composition at Illinois State University in Normal, IL.


Ken Thomson

Ken Thomson, a staple of New York City’s contemporary music and jazz communities, is widely regarded for his ability to blend a rich variety of influences and styles into his own musical language while maintaining a voice unmistakably his own. Embracing the combination of complexity in harmony, rhythm, and form while adding a punk-rock aesthetic, Thomson stands alone in his unique corner of today’s multifaceted musical world.

As a performer-composer bridging jazz and contemporary music, his latest release with his group Slow/Fast was called Settle. It was praised by The New York Times for its “intricate long-form compositions,” and garnered a five-star review in All About Jazz. The Chicago Reader wrote, “Few musicians travel as assuredly and meaningfully between jazz and new music…. Thomson’s pieces breathe and emanate an infectious energy, with every wend and wind hurtling the music forward rather than showing off the band’s chops.” He has released a CD of his compositions for the heralded JACK Quartet, entitled Thaw, on Cantaloupe Music, which was called the #1 Classical CD of 2013 by, and was featured in NPR’s “10 Songs Public Radio Can’t Stop Playing.” His most recent disc, Restless, released October 2016, focuses on two major works for cello and piano performed by Ashley Bathgate and Karl Larson, released digitally and on vinyl. It garnered a 7.9 Pitchfork review and received Top of 2016 accolades from writers Seth Colter Walls, Steve Smith (The Log Journal) and AnEarful blog, who wrote, “No album in 2016 in any genre did more with less than Restless, featuring two huge-sounding chamber works composed by Thomson.

As a composer, he has been commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra, Bang on a Can, the True/False Film Festival, Doug Perkins, Mariel Roberts, and others, and has received awards from New Music USA, ASCAP and Meet the Composer. The New York Times wrote of his work “Wait Your Turn” for the American Composers Orchestra upon its debut at Carnegie Hall: “The concert ended on a high note…. the music offered a density worthy of the closing bars of a Led Zeppelin epic;” and of his work “seasonal.disorder” for the Bang on a Can All-Stars, “a virtuoso piece.”  His latest 15-minute work for chamber orchestra, “Boil,” was premiered at the Bang on a Can Summer Festival in summer 2016.