Winner of the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Jazz Piano Competition and named by Wynton Marsalis as one of his 2011 “Who’s Got Next: Jazz Musicians to Watch,” pianist-composer Helen Sung is blazing her own path – as an Asian-American artist, she bridges diverse worlds with a singular vision and sound.
A native of Houston, Texas, and graduate of its renowned High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA), Sung was an aspiring classical pianist at the University of Texas at Austin before a “Tommy Flanagan solo changed everything”. She went on to graduate from the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance @ the New England Conservatory in Boston.
…her Sunnyside debut CD Sungbird after Albeniz , a jazz-classical adventure, is being hailed “a real winner” (All About Jazz – Los Angeles)
Accepting only seven students (forming a jazz septet), the intensive program was an unprecedented opportunity to study & perform with some of the greatest masters of the music. The students also performed at the Kennedy Center and toured India & Thailand with Herbie Hancock & Wayne Shorter. Personal highlights of Sung’s time in Boston include presenting a jazz workshop with the late, acclaimed bassist Ray Brown, performing at the Tanglewood Jazz Festival, and teaching a group piano class for low-income elderly adults sponsored by NEC’s Continuing Education Program & the YMCA.
‘Jazz pianist Helen Sung and her trio took a capacity Fontana Chamber Arts crowd for a ride that patrons won’t soon forget. Sung let listeners into her world: a place of passion, adventure and drama bound by even and odd musical notes and truckloads of rhythm.’ (Alex Nixon, Kalamazoo Gazette)
Now based in New York City, this exceptional artist is enchanting listeners everywhere: her music swings, it’s funky, intelligent, and also has the elegant textures & dazzling technique of her classical background. Sung incorporates the influences of the masters in an utterly unique way, creating imaginative, modern music that thoroughly captivates.
Sung has five first-rate albums to her credit including a 2011 debut CD on Steeplechase: (re)Conception and a 2nd CD on Sunnyside Records: Going Express (2010); her Sunnyside debut Sungbird After Albeniz, a jazz-classical adventure, was hailed a “a real winner” (All About Jazz), a “seamless recording in which one composer’s contributions complement the other’s” (BillBoard). Helenistique (Fresh Sound) was praised as “one of the year’s most exciting listens” (JazzTimes).
She has gone on to work with such jazz luminaries as Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Ron Carter, Jon Faddis, Wayne Shorter, and MacArthur Fellow Regina Carter. In addition to her own band, Sung can currently be seen with fine ensembles including the Mingus Big Band & Mingus Dynasty, T.S.Monk Band, and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington’s Grammy-winning Mosaic Project.
Sung has been featured on Marian McPartland’s celebrated Piano Jazz program and in such publications as Downbeat, JazzTimes, and Keyboard. With acclaimed debuts at the Detroit International Jazz Festival, the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Aspen Institute Ideas Festival, Seattle’s Earshot Festival; Fontana Chamber Arts Summer Festival; and the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Festival; she is also claiming a place on the international stage: her trio was featured at the Kalisz International Jazz Piano Festival and Jazz Lucca Donna Festival, and her NuGenerations project toured southern Africa as a 2009 US State Department-Rhythm Road Jazz Ambassador.
Her experience at the Monk Institute inspires her to stay involved with music education through working with arts organizations and conducting workshops/clinics. Sung also produced a weeklong jazz residency program for underserved youth (made possible by a Chamber Music America/Doris Duke Foundation Grant), serves as Senior Faculty for the Litchfield Jazz Camp, and joined the Berklee College of Music as an Associate Piano Professor in the Fall of 2011.
Sung completed composition commissions for the West Chester University Poetry Conference and arts organization JazzReach, and she was selected as a 2010 NYC Spaces/Con Edison Composer-in-Residence at Flushing Town Hall. In all of her art, Sung welcomes “listeners into her world: a place of passion, adventure and drama, and truckloads of rhythm…taking audiences for a ride they won’t soon forget.” (Kalamazoo Gazette).