Yoko Reikano Kimura is a distinguished virtuoso of Japanese koto and shamisen in both traditional and contemporary music. Based in the US and Japan, she has concertized in about 20 countries around the world. The New York Times described her shamisen playing and singing as “superb.” New York Classical Review described her performance as “played with poise and verve.” San Francisco Examiner also praised, “an elegant refined presence perfectly poised, she played with precision, beauty and the utmost confidence.”
She has performed at renowned venues such as John F. Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, United Nation, Japan Society, New York Live Arts, Asia Society Texas Center, Jordan Hall and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. She has worked with world-renowned musicians and artists such as Heiner Goebbels, Daron Hagen, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Wien Soristen Trio, Ikuro Fujiwara, Yasuko Yokoshi (dance), among many others. Since 2004, she has performed at many international festivals including Warsaw Autumn Festival, Nova Arts in Bordeaux, Vilnius Festival, The Uijeongbu Music Theatre Festival and Israel Festival. Her performances have been broadcasted on NPR’s Performance Today, NHK-FM’s Hogaku no Hitotoki, WQXR and Nippon TV’s The MUSIC DAY. In Japan, she has performed at the Kabuki-za for the play, Sukeroku starring Danjuro Ichikawa XII, also appeared in wide variety of venues including the National Theatre, National Noh Theatre, Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre, Suntory Hall and World Heritage Sites; Ryoan-ji Temple, Kasuga Grand Shrine and Toshodai-ji Temple. She recorded various classical shamisen works for the online music archive, Traditional Music Digital Library.
Kimura has won numerous awards and grants including the First prize at the prestigious 10th Kenjun Memorial National Koto Competition as the first Yamada school player (2003); Kyoto Aoyama Barocksaal Award (2015); Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program grant (2014), the Janet Latz Professional Fellowship (2011), the Japanese Music Audition for NHK-FM (2005); a scholarship from the Agency for the Culture and Affairs in Japan (2004); the First prize at the Great Wall International Music Competition and the Osaka Chinese Counsel Award (2002).
As an enthusiastic proponent of contemporary music, Kimura has premiered numerous new works for traditional Japanese instruments and has been a long-time collaborator with the esteemed Kyo-Shin-An Arts. As a koto soloist, she premiered Koto Concerto: Genji (13-string koto version) composed by Daron Hagen with the Euclid Quartet in 2013 and later performed it with Ciompi Quartet, Freimann Quartet and Urbana-Champaign based Prairie Ensemble Orchestra. In 2014, Kimura premiered Kaito Nakahori’s Japanese Footbridge for koto and chamber ensemble and in the following year, performed James Nyoraku Schlefer’s Concertante with Texas Festival Orchestra at the Round Top Music Festival. In 2018, Kimura will perform Hagen’s koto concerto with the Wintergreen Music Festival Orchestra. As a shamisen soloist, she performed Shamisen Concerto at the National Olympic Memorial Center in 2004. In 2015, Kimura was invited to perform at the Asia Society Texas Center with Aperio. In 2016, she performed with American Symphony Orchestra in Pietro Mascagni’s opera Iris as a shamisen player. In 2017, Kimura commissioned and gave a world premiere performance of Marty Regan’s Shamisen Concerto No.1 Polaris.
In 2009, Kimura founded Duo YUMENO with cellist Hikaru Tamaki. The duo offers a unique fusion of sound that explores both traditional Japanese music and Western classical music, commissioning new works and creating their own arrangements. Yasuko Tazumi, the Jury President of Kyoto Aoyama Award, praised “the voices of the koto and cello shifted in color like a kaleidoscope, creating a variety of rich and expressive tones.” In 2015 they released their first album, Flowers, Birds, Wind, Moon: Music by Marty Regan. The duo was featured at Chamber Music America’s 2016 National Conference. In 2017, they performed at the John F. Kennedy Center and the residence of the Japanese ambassador to the United States in Washington, D.C. Currently, the duo is working on a commissioning project with composer Daron Hagen on a suite based on The Tale of Heike.
Born and raised in Saitama, Japan, Kimura started piano from age four but took an interest in many types of music. She started Yamada style koto studies with Yukano Inoue at the age 10. At the age 14, she began her intensive koto training with Kono Kameyama, the foremost Yamada style performer in Japan. She graduated from the Tokyo University of the Arts and Music, where she was awarded the top prize for her graduation recital. In 2000, she received her stage name Reikano and Kyoju(master) certificate from Hiroko Nakanoshima Ⅵ, daughter of the legendary koto and shamisen performer and composer Kin’ichi Nakanoshima. While advancing her studies in Japanese classical music, Kimura took a deep interest in new music written for Japanese instruments. She continued her studies at the NHK (Japanese national broadcasting corporation) School for Young Professionals. At the Institute of Japanese Traditional Music, she studied contemporary music with Akiko Nishigata, who pioneered the performance of new musical repertoire on the shamisen. In the genre of the Kato style shamisen – a genre closely related to Yamada style koto music – Kimura studied with Senko Yamabiko, a Living National Treasure, and received the name Reiko Yamabiko. Before moving to the US in 2010, Yoko was a faculty member at Senzoku Gakuen College of Music and a koto instructor at Kiryu University. As a Japanese instrumentalist, she continues her performances in Japan and holds a teaching position at the Institute of Traditional Japanese Music, an affiliate of Senzoku Gakuen College of Music. Since Kimura moved to the US, she has given workshops and lectures at various educational institutions, such as Harvard University, Columbia University, Princeton University, University of Chicago, Duke University, University of Hawaii and New York Philharmonic’s educational program.
Innovation, imagination, passion and dynamism are the hallmarks of conductor Mei-Ann Chen. Music Director of the 2016 MacArthur Award-winning Chicago Sinfonietta since 2011, and Artistic Director and Conductor for the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra Summer Festival since 2016, she is acclaimed for infusing orchestras with energy, enthusiasm and high-level music-making, and galvanizing audiences and communities alike. In December 2015, Musical America, the bible of the performing arts industry, named Mei-Ann Chen one of its 2015 Top 30 Influencers (people, described by MusicalAmerica.com editor Susan Elliot as "...folks about whom you could say 'When they speak, we listen.'"). A sought- after guest conductor, Ms. Chen's reputation as a compelling communicator has resulted in growing popularity with orchestras both nationally and internationally.
Among her guest engagements in the 2016-2017 season are debuts and returns to the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra at the Concertgebouw, Sweden's Malmo SymfoniOrkester, Austria's Orchester Graz, Finland's Tampere Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Houston Symphony, Tucson Symphony, Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, Knoxville Symphony, Long Beach Symphony, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston, as well as both the National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan (Taipei) and the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra (Taichung).
Recent performance highlights include leading the Sweden's Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Quebec and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Germany's Badische Staatskapelle Karlsruhe, Taiwan's National Symphony Orchestra, return engagements to symphonies of Grand Rapids, Toledo and Tucson, and making debut appearances with Santa Rosa Symphony and at the Ravinia Festival, as well as the Netherlands Philharmonic at the Concertgebouw, Canada's Calgary Philharmonic and Edmonton Symphony, Brazil's Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra and Orquestra Filarmonica de Minas Gerais, and the symphony orchestras of Cincinnati, Chicago, Detroit, Fort Worth, Houston, Indianapolis, Oregon, and San Diego. Among her many notable North American guesting credits are appearances with the symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, Colorado, Columbus, Florida, Nashville, North Carolina, Pacific, Phoenix, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, and the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. Overseas guesting credits include Danish National Symphony Orchestra, and Symphony Orchestras of Denmark's Aalborg, Aarhus, Odense and South Jutland, the BBC Scottish Symphony, Bournemouth Symphony, Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Mexico, Norrland's Opera (Sweden), Norwegian Radio Orchestra and Trondheim Symphony (Norway). U.S. summer music festival credits include Aspen, Britt, Grand Teton, Ravinia, National Repertory Orchestra, Texas Music Festival, Wintergreen, and the Chautauqua Institute.
Ms. Chen's skills both on and off the podium have been recognized, as someone who has redefined the orchestra experience and as a music educator. Among her honors and awards are the 2012 Helen M. Thompson Award from the League of American Orchestras and First Prize Winner of the 2005 Malko Competition in Copenhagen (the first woman to do so). As recipient of the 2007 Taki Concordia Fellowship, she appeared jointly with Marin Alsop and Stefan Sanderling in highly acclaimed subscription concerts with the Baltimore Symphony, Colorado Symphony and Florida Orchestra.
Following a successful six season tenure (2010-2016) as Music Director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra Ms. Chen was named Conductor Laureate this past spring. She served as Assistant Conductorof the Atlanta Symphony and Baltimore Symphony under the aegis of the League of American Orchestras, and with the Oregon symphony as well. In 2002, Ms. Chen was unanimously selected as Music Director of the Portland Youth Philharmonic in Oregon, the oldest of its kind and a model for many youth orchestras in the United States. During her five-year tenure with the orchestra, she led its sold-out debut in Carnegie Hall, received an ASCAP award for innovative programming, and developed new and unique musicianship programs for the orchestra's membro. She was also the recipient of a Sunburst Award from Young Audiences for her contribution to music education.
Born in Taiwan, Mei-Ann Chen has lived in the United States since 1989. She was the first student in New England Conservatory's history to receive master's degrees simultaneously in both violin and conducting. She later studied with Kenneth Kiesler at the University of Michigan, where she earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting. Ms. Chen also participated in the National Conducting Institute in Washington, D.C. and at the American Academy of Conducting in Aspen.
Hagen writes in his program note, "The substance of Genji, my composition for koto and string quartet, or small, or large orchestra, is a result of the quintessentially Japanese koto interacting with western orchestra.
The style of the work blossoms from whatever preconceived notions of what the koto and the orchestra "ought" to sound like that the listener brings to the piece. The interplay of traditions therefore generates the genre of the piece: I call it a concerto only because of the clash of musical traditions involved, not because the soloist is in any way at odds with the ensemble.
Music creates its own narrative, and has its own inner logic; however, in order to assist the listener on this particular journey, I have overlaid one appropriated from the greatest of all Japanese epics, Genji. The result is a sequence of psychological situations, one per movement, each with a colorful, descriptive title drawn from the novel.
Originally commissioned by Kyo-Shin-An for koto and string quartet, I simultaneously created versions for koto and chamber orchestra, and koto and large orchestra. The soloist for the premiere of all three versions, which differ only in instrumentation, was Yumi Kurosawa."
The Wintergreen Music Festival
Located in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Wintergreen Performing Arts, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that produces a high-quality summer music festival featuring symphonic and chamber concerts, as well as other performing arts programs throughout the year. Education is a major part of its mission, reflected both in the Wintergreen Summer Music Academy and in outreach programs for those living in the surrounding area. By attracting first-rate musicians to participate as performers and educators, Wintergreen Performing Arts strives to enrich the lives of all–residents and visitors alike–who share the unique Wintergreen experience.