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Helen Sung, Jazz pianist & composer

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Helen Sung is an acclaimed jazz pianist and composer, and a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow. A native of Houston, Texas, and alumna of its High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (where she studied classical piano and violin), she eschewed her classical upbringing after a jazz epiphany during undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Helen went on to become part of the inaugural class of the Thelonious Monk Institute (now the Herbie Hancock Institute) at the New England Conservatory of Music, and win the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Jazz Piano Competition.

Sung’s newest album Quartet+ (Sunnyside Records) garnered a 4.5 star DownBeat review and inclusion in its “Best of 2021 Albums” list, and a JazzTimes cover story (January 2022 issue), while previous releases Sung With Words (Stricker Street), a collaborative project with renowned poet Dana Gioia, and Anthem For A New Day (Concord Jazz) topped the jazz charts. In addition to her own band, Helen has performed with such luminaries as the late Clark Terry, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Wynton Marsalis, Regina Carter, Terri Lyne Carrington, Cecile McLorin Salvant, and the Mingus Big Band.

Recent activities of note include “Re-Orientation: Asian American Artists Out Loud” (made possible by a Chamber Music America Digital Residency grant): provoked by anti-Asian violence, Helen teamed up her quartet with a poet, a hip-hop artist/rapper and an installation artist in a series of interdisciplinary events to celebrate the range and diversity of Asian American artistry. Helen’s Guggenheim fellowship is being applied toward a multi-movement composition for big band; one of the movements, “Wayne’s World,” won the 2022 BMI Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize.

Helen has served on the jazz faculties of the Berklee College of Music and the Juilliard School. She is currently visiting faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and an Associate Professor at Columbia University, where she also was the inaugural jazz artist-in-residence at its prestigious Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute exploring the intersection of jazz and neuroscience. Helen is a Steinway Artist.

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