Helen Sung is an American jazz pianist of Chinese heritage.

History

Sung is a native of Houston, Texas. Her musical life began with classical piano and violin. She attended Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, and went on to receive undergraduate and master's degrees in classical piano performance at the University of Texas at Austin. She first heard jazz music during that time. In 1995 she was accepted into the inaugural class of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at the New England Conservatory of Music. After graduating in 1997 Sung briefly joined the Boston area jazz scene before moving to New York City, where she currently resides.

Biography

"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

Sung has been called "one of the brightest emerging stars in jazz today." As an Asian-American artist and composer, she challenges stereotypes with a compelling, unique voice informed by her virtuosity in classical, jazz, and popular music.

A native of Houston, Texas, Sung attended Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA). She initially aspired to be a classical pianist but was bitten by the jazz bug (specifically by Tommy Flanagan's solo on Charlie Parker's composition Confirmation) while studying at the University of Texas at Austin. Going against both her musical and cultural upbringing, she switched to jazz and was soon after accepted into the inaugural class of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance (then at Boston's New England Conservatory of Music).

An intensive program accepting only seven students (forming a jazz septet), the Institute proved to be an unprecedented opportunity to study and perform with some of the greatest masters of jazz music: Clark Terry, Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Heath, Jackie McLean, Bobby Watson, Harry "Sweets" Edison, James Moody, Ron Carter (artistic director of the program), Barry Harris, David Baker, Slide Hampton, Lewis Nash, Jon Faddis, Curtis Fuller, Albert "Tootie" Heath, Bennie Maupin, and Sir Roland Hanna. They performed at the Kennedy Center, and toured India and Thailand with Herbie Hancock and 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 feature television spots.

Sung has worked with Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Ron Carter, Jon Faddis, Wayne Shorter, Steve Turre, T.S.Monk, Terri Lyne Carrington, and MacArthur Fellow Regina Carter. She frequently appears with the Mingus Big Band and was a featured performer on PBS' 'In Performance at the White House' for the Monk Institute's 20th Anniversary Celebration in 2006.

As bandleader, Sung has performed on Marian McPartland's acclaimed Piano Jazz show, NPR's JazzSet w/DeeDee Bridgewater, and XM Radio's In the Swing Seat w/Wynton Marsalis. Sung has feature print pieces in such publications as Downbeat, JazzTimes, Keyboard, JazzIz, and AllAboutJazz. Her band has headlined at the Fontana Chamber Arts Summer Festival, Kalisz International Jazz Piano Festival, the Kennedy Center's Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival, Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, Vermont Mozart Festival, Jazz Lucca Donna Festival (Italy), Tri-C Jazz Festival (Cleveland), Jazz Festival Bern, the American Jazz Museum's 'Blue Room,' The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and New York City's finest jazz venues.

Her CD Helenistique was praised as "...one of the year's most exciting listens" (JazzTimes); and Sungbird after Albéniz, a jazz-classical adventure, was hailed "a real winner" (All About Jazz), a "seamless recording in which one composer's contributions complement the other's." (BillBoard). Her project NuGenerations toured southern Africa (Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Namibia, and South Africa) as a 2009 US State Department-Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad ensemble.

Her rich experience at the Monk Institute inspires her to stay involved with music education through working with arts organizations and conducting workshops and clinics. Sung was also a recipient of a Chamber Music America/Doris Duke Foundation Grant enabling her to conduct a jazz residency program for underserved youth in Camden, NJ.

Notable

2010 NYCSpaces/Con Edison Composer-in-Residence at Flushing Town Hall,

2010 Artist Presenter and Panelist at Aspen Ideas Festival,

2009 U.S. State Department-Rhythm Road "American Music Abroad" Ensemble,

Winner of Kennedy Center 2007 Mary Lou Williams Competition,

Recipient of a 2006 Chamber Music America/Doris Duke Foundation grant