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Sumi Tonooka

County: King County




Grants for Artist Projects 2014
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Sumi Tonooka has been called a “fierce and fascinating composer and pianist” (Jazz Times), “provocative and compelling” (New York Times), and “continually inventive, original, surprising, and a total delight,” (Cuadranos de Jazz, Madrid). During a career spanning more than 30 years that has taken her from bases in Philadelphia and Boston, to New York and Seattle, Sumi has been developing a body of work that surprises and delights audiences — quietly piling up accolades from jazz writers and fellow musicians. In addition to her symphonic and chamber works, jazz recordings and performances, Sumi has composed over 20 film scores, including the Academy Award-nominated Family Gathering by Lise Yasui and Daring To Resist by Martha Lubell, aired on PBS. She now divides her time between her responsibilities as the Chief Public Relations Officer for ARC, composing and performing for an increasingly widespread audience of jazz aficionados. In his liner notes to pianist, composer and educator Sumi’s fifth CD, Long Ago Today, journalist Russ Musto restated his praise from 30 years ago: “…it has been a pleasure to hear her blossom into one of the most talented musicians of her generation.”

Sumi received 2014 GAP funding to compose music for Drift Wood, a jazz chamber work for piano, bass, drums, cello, bass clarinet and flute. The title of the piece is inspired by her ancestral connection to the Northwest. Sumi’s mother was born on Bainbridge Island in 1925 and lived there until the age of 16. The Japanese people on Bainbridge Island were among the first of 100,000 forced to leave their homes and placed behind barbed wire during World War II. Her mother was taken to an internment camp at Manzanar and only came back to visit Bainbridge Island much later in life. The music is inspired by a feeling of connection, a sense of place, resolution, healing and a knowing that the ancestors are calling. Composing this work is an act of listening and responding. This piece is a vehicle for sharing the family story and history with others.

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