Tonia Ko

Tonia Ko

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 her work across a variety of media—from instrumental solos and large ensemble pieces, to improvisations 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.

Recipient of a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship, Ko’s 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 from a broad range of the music scene, including recent collaborations with Riot Ensemble, Berlin Counterpoint, Grossman Ensemble, Spektral Quartet, and the virtuosic singers of Volti. Her work has been performed at venues such as Walt Disney Concert Hall, Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, LSO St. Luke’s, and featured at the Hertzbreakerz Sound Spaces Festival and Thailand International Composition Festival.

Ko has received grants and awards from the Fromm Music Foundation, Barlow Foundation, Chamber Music America, American Academy of Arts and Letters, Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) as well as residencies at MacDowell, Copland House, MASS MoCA and Djerassi Resident Artist Program. She served as the 2015-2017 Composer-in-Residence for Young Concert Artists.

In the attempt to follow aural, visual, and tactile instincts in a holistic way, Ko mediates between the identities of composer, sound artist, and improviser. This has sparked interdisciplinary connections— most prominently “Breath, Contained”, an ongoing project using bubble wrap as a canvas for both art and sound. As a bubble wrap virtuoso, she has performed with other noted improvisers at Guarneri Hall, Stony Island Arts Bank, and Hundred Years Gallery.

Ko was born in Hong Kong in 1988 and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. She earned a B.M. with Highest Distinction from the Eastman School of Music and an M.M. from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. She holds a D.M.A. from Cornell University, where she studied with Steven Stucky and Kevin Ernste. Her practice has been enriched by further studies at the Tanglewood Music Center and Royaumont Académie Voix Nouvelles. She was the 2018-19 Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Chicago’ s Center for Contemporary Composition. Upon relocating to the United Kingdom, she was appointed Lecturer in Composition at Royal Holloway, University of London in 2020.

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