Composer Tonia Ko has collaborated with leading soloists and ensembles across a variety of media – from acoustic concert pieces to improvisations and site-specific sound installations. No matter how traditional or experimental the medium, her 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 Royaumont Académie Voix Nouvelles, Shanghai Conservatory New Music Week, Young Composers Meeting at Apeldoorn, and Thailand International Composition Festival, where she was awarded the 2014 Rapee Sagarik Prize. Ko has received grants and awards from the Harvard University's Fromm Music Foundation, Chamber Music America, American Academy of Arts and Letters, Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) as well as residencies at the MacDowell Colony, Copland House, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, 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 project 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. Beyond the concert hall, she has collaborated with the Perry Chiu Experimental Theatre in Hong Kong and the Periapsis Music & Dance in Brooklyn.
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.
In 2018, she became the second Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Chicago’s Center for Contemporary Composition and was appointed Honorary Research Fellow at City, University of London for the 2019-2020 academic year. She joined Royal Holloway, University of London as Lecturer in Composition in 2020.