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 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.
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, 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. Internationally, her work has been featured at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Royaumont Académie Voix Nouvelles, Shanghai Conservatory New Music Week, Young Composers Meeting at Apeldoorn, and Thailand International Composition Festival. Ko has received grants and awards from the Barlow Foundation, Fromm Music Foundation, Chamber Music America, American Academy of Arts and Letters, Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) as well as residencies at MacDowell Colony, The Copland House, 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 increasingly mediates between the identities of composer, sound artist, and visual artist. This has sparked interdisciplinary connections— most prominently Breath, Contained, an ongoing series of works using bubble wrap as a canvas for both art and sound. Her visual and installation work has been further supported by a residency at the Studios at MASS MoCA in the summer of 2017.
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. At IU, she served as Associate Instructor of Music Theory and was awarded the Georgina Joshi Commission Prize. She holds a D.M.A. from Cornell University, where she studied with Steven Stucky and Kevin Ernste. She was the 2018-19 Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Chicago’s Center for Contemporary Composition and was appointed Lecturer in Composition at Royal Holloway, University of London in 2020.
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