All About Jazz called her the “queen of chamber jazz," Meg Okura balances her roles as violin virtuoso, prolific composer, and erhu player. She has won numerous grants and awards as a composer, and her credits as violinist and erhu player appear on over fifty albums and soundtracks with various artists from David Bowie, Dianne Reeves to Lee Konitz. Native of Tokyo, Meg Okura has toured all of Asia as concertmaster and soloist of the Asian Youth Orchestra. She moved to the U.S. to study at the Juilliard School as a teenager, and made her solo debut at Kennedy Center that year, and switched to jazz upon graduation. She has toured with jazz masters such as Michael Brecker, Steve Swallow, Lee Konitz, Tom Harrell, as well as three Cirque du Soleil productions, and has performed as a soloist at venues from the Knitting Factory to Carnegie Hall to Madison Square Garden. Hailed by the New York Times as “vibrant" and “sophisticated," her Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble weaves together jazz, classical, and world music to create a unique blend of world-chamber jazz.



One-paged Biography

All About Jazz called her “the queen of chamber jazz," violinist, composer and erhu player Meg Okura leads the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble, a group of virtuosi, featuring some of the best young musicians in jazz. Hailed by the New York Times as “vibrant" and “sophisticated," the ensemble “successfully blends the musical cultures of East and West for a new and exciting direction in modern jazz expression." (Inside New York Magazine)

Okura started pursuing jazz upon her graduation from The Juilliard School where she was the concertmaster of the Juilliard Opera Orchestra. Since then, she has toured internationally with the late Michael Brecker, Steve Swallow, Tom Harrell, as well as her own group. Okura has been heard at venues from the Knitting Factory to Carnegie Hall to Madison Square Garden, from Barbican Centre in London to Hollywood Bowl in California, from Village Vanguard to Blue Note Tokyo, and festivals and concert halls around the world.

She has appeared on albums with wide range of artists including David Bowie, Lee Konitz, Diane Reeves, Heidi Grand-Murphy, Sam Newsome, Jesse Harris, Jeremy Pelt, Ziggy Marley and others. Her credits as a violinist, erhu player and composer appear on many movie soundtracks. She has been featured in three Cirque du Soleil productions, and has collaborated and performed with Oscar nominee actor and recording artist Terrence Howard. As a composer, she has received numerous grants and awards to write music for various groups, including C. Eule Dance, the New York Symphonic Ensemble, Sirius String Quartet, the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble and others.

Born in Tokyo, Japan, Meg Okura began studying the violin and piano at four, and attended Toho Gakuen School. She was the youngest winner of the Tokyo Bunkakaikan Emerging Musicians' Debut Audition in 1990. At seventeen, she was invited to take the concertmaster chair in the Asian Youth Orchestra, leading one hundred of the finest young musicians from nine countries and touring all of Asia. The following year, Ms. Okura was invited back as a soloist to tour with the orchestra, under the baton of Lukas Foss.

During the same year, she made her U.S. solo debut at the Kennedy Center with the late Alexander Schneider’s New York String Orchestra. She then moved to New York City and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in violin performance from The Julliard School. While in school, she released three albums, and toured throughout Japan as a recitalist. In 1998, she received a full scholarship to attend Henry Mancini Institute in Los Angeles, CA, where she was the soloist and the concertmaster for the orchestra backing up Herbie Hancock, Shirley Horn, Diana Krall, and Terence Blanchard, under the batons of Quincy Jones, Jerry Goldsmith, and Jack Elliot.

In 2006, Okura founded the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble, and released its self-titled debut album, which became the finalist in 2006 Independent Music Awards. Since then, the ensemble has appeared in over fifty concerts, including the NYC Winter JazzFest, Lincoln Center, Knitting Factory, Rubin Museum, Levitt Pavilion in California, KL International Jazz Festival in Malaysia, and sold-out concerts in Japan in 2008. The PACJE released the second album, “Naima" in 2010, highlighting Okura’s “breathtaking version" (Raul D’Gama Rose, All About Jazz) of Coltrane’s classic. This year, the PACJE will present a new program, “Music of Ryuichi Sakamoto"-- re-imagining his classics from the Yellow Magic Orchestra to the Academy award winning soundtrack, The Last Emperor and beyond.


Full Length Bio
Playing everything from Paganini to Coltrane, violin virtuoso Meg Okura puts a certain sparkle into jazz. Formerly a classically trained concert violinist, the composer and jazz violinist has revolutionized the world of chamber jazz by artfully entwining her already colorful and moving pieces with inspirations from various cultures and countries to create a purely enchanting experience.
Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, the multi-faceted artist cultivated her passion for music at the Toho Gakuen School of Music at the age of five. Talented and determined, Meg’s artistic ability later led to her position as concertmaster and soloist of Asian Youth Orchestra, and eventually her United States debut with the late Alexander Schneider’s New York String Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in her teenage years. She furthered her education at the Julliard School, earning both bachelors and masters degree in the study of classical violin. Soon, persuaded by her Juilliard professors’ belief in her exceptional gift in composition and improvisation, Meg began to pursue a transition from the classical violin to something even more challenging—jazz.
Studying jazz harmony and improvisation, Meg dedicated herself to mastering the tradition of jazz and soon, with her switch of genres and evolution into what she explains as “a more complete musician", Meg began to advance her career as a jazz violinist. Touring with artists such as 13-time Grammy winner Michael Brecker and Steve Swallow, and recording with jazz artists Dianne Reeves, Lee Konitz, and Sam Newsome, Meg has performed at prominent venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the Lincoln Center, and London’s Barbican Centre. In addition, she has collaborated and performed with Oscar nominee actor and Columbia recording artist Terrence Howard, as well as been featured in three Cirque du Soleil shows, exhibiting her remarkable talent as an improviser on the violin.
In 2005, however, Meg embarked on a journey unlike one she had ever endured, challenging herself as both a violinist and composer, and starting her own group.
Inspired by her experience in the various countries that comprise Asia, Meg composed and recorded a compilation of music that would soon lead to the birth of her latest project, the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble. The works she composed comprised the seven-person ensemble’s self-titled debut album, which won the group notoriety as a finalist for “Best Album" in the 2006 Independent Musicians Awards, and have made the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble the rare gem of the jazz world.
“Composing is the most natural thing for me to do—it’s as though music just comes to me. Sometimes I can be composing complicated music in my dreams and thanks to my perfect pitch, I can hear music in my head and know exactly what notes I am hearing and can write them down," says Meg.
The ensemble, which “mixes a classically trained mastery of strings, piano and drums with (a) quick-witted compositional twist" (Down Beat Magazine, Jennifer Odell), played to sold-out concerts in Japan in 2008 and has also performed at the NYC Winter Jazz Festival, Knitting Factory, and the Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center.
Now, Meg’s Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble presents their second album, “Naima", named as a tribute to jazz icon John Coltrane, highlighting Meg’s unique new arrangement of the classic.
“The first album was the music that came naturally to me without any objective. This album is…more Asian, more jazz, and more chamber music. Touring Asia as a teen was really a life-changing experience, making music with musicians representing nine different Asian countries, working closely together and traveling together. I draw upon my memories of Asia and try to access my feelings toward the people, the culture, and the nature and sceneries of Asia (for inspiration)," Meg says.
Featuring rare instruments the shinobue (Japanese bamboo flute) and the erhu (a two-stringed Chinese violin), which Meg plays in addition to the violin, the album is a “collection of original works that represent and symbolize the name of (the) group." The ensemble “…elegantly intertwine(s) elements of classical, jazz and world folk into a new sound…by presenting precisely played ethnically inspired original compositions in an exciting modern jazz context" (All About Jazz, Elliot Simon). This unique approach to music has earned her numerous grants and awards as a composer, making her to be one of today’s leading voices in the world chamber jazz.
Yet, Meg also offers two familiar tunes including the title cut “Naima." “The modal quality of Coltrane’s ‘Naima’ echoes with the music of French Impressionist period," she says. In this unique new version, she creates fluidity in texture and colors by writing arpeggios moving towards different directions while slowly shifting the chords to encompass stillness within movements. “It’s an Impressionist violin concerto meets modern Jazz with a hint of Japanese mode", Meg says. The other familiar piece on the album “Carpice", on the other hand, is a Latin jazz piece based on a theme from the famous Caprice No. 24 by the Italian composer and violinist, Nicolo Paganini. It features virtuosic cadenzas by Meg Okura herself and pianist Mamiko Kitaura.
The album ends with a 25-minute through-composed suite entitled “Lu Chai"--music inspired by a poem of the same title by Wang Wei, a great poet from the Chinese Tang Dynasty. “To play chamber jazz, most, if not all of the players in the group must be jazz improvisers," Meg says. The suite showcases variety of solos including one by the veteran jazz flutist, Anne Drummond, as well as solos on instruments not typically associated with jazz, such as the cello and even the erhu.
Today, Meg resides in New York City with her husband, soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome, and says she is living her life, fulfilling her dreams and relishing every day in new understandings and identity.
“I take to heart the new challenges of being a composer, jazz violinist, Asian American, artist and wife, while at the same time, constantly reminding myself of the responsibility to do my absolute best to achieve foremost excellence in the arts..."

New York Times
“…(Meg Okura ) is equally comfortable playing classical chamber music, rock and everything in between." (Stephen Holden)

All About Jazz
“…breathtaking…shivers of emotion down the spine…flawless technique…a complete musician and a major one."

Down Beat Magazine
"... mixes a classically trained mastery of strings, piano and drums with quick-witted compositional twist performed with high energy." (Jennifer Odell)

Jazz Times
“…a stunning improvisation on top of an impressionistic backdrop." (Bill Milkowski)

Birmingham Times
“Captivating, exciting and refreshing… marvelously diverse mixing the past, present and future." (Esther Cailens)



Short Biography

All About Jazz called her “Queen of chamber jazz," Meg Okura balances her roles as violin virtuoso, prolific composer, and master erhu player. She has won numerous grants and awards as a composer, and her credits as violinist and erhu player appear on over fifty albums and soundtracks with various artists from David Bowie, Dianne Reeves to Lee Konitz. Native of Tokyo, Meg Okura has toured all of Asia as concertmaster and soloist of the Asian Youth Orchestra. She moved to the U.S. to study at the Juilliard School as a teenager, and made her solo debut at Kennedy Center that year, and switched to jazz upon graduation. She has toured with jazz masters such as Michael Brecker, Steve Swallow, Lee Konitz, Tom Harrell, as well as three Cirque du Soleil productions, and has performed as a soloist at venues from the Knitting Factory to Carnegie Hall to Madison Square Garden. Hailed by the New York Times as “vibrant" and “sophisticated," her Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble weaves together jazz, classical, and world music to create a unique blend of world-chamber jazz.



One-paged Biography

Playing everything from Paganini to Coltrane, violin virtuoso Meg Okura puts a certain sparkle into jazz. Formerly a classically trained concert violinist, the composer and jazz violinist has revolutionized the world of chamber jazz by artfully entwining her already colorful and moving pieces with inspirations from various cultures and countries to create a purely enchanting experience.
Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, the multi-faceted artist cultivated her passion for music at the Toho Gakuen School of Music at the young age of five. Talented and determined, her artistic ability later led to her position as concertmaster and soloist of Asian Youth Orchestra, and eventually her U.S. debut with the late Alexander Schneider’s New York String Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in her teenage years. She furthered her education at the Julliard School, earning both bachelors and masters degree in classical violin. Soon, persuaded by her Juilliard professors’ belief in her exceptional gift in composition and improvisation, Meg began to pursue a transition from the classical violin to jazz.
Studying jazz improvisation, Meg dedicated herself to mastering the tradition of jazz and soon, with her switch of genres and evolution into what she explains as “a more complete musician", Meg began to advance her career as a jazz violinist. Touring with artists such as 13-time Grammy winner Michael Brecker and Steve Swallow, and recording with jazz artists Dianne Reeves, Lee Konitz, and Sam Newsome, Meg has performed at prominent venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the Lincoln Center, and London’s Barbican Centre. In addition, she has collaborated and performed with Oscar nominee actor and Columbia recording artist Terrence Howard numerous times in her hometown of New York, as well as been featured in three Cirque du Soleil shows, exhibiting her remarkable talent as an improviser on the violin.
In 2005, however, Meg embarked on a journey unlike one she had ever endured, starting her own group, the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble, challenging herself as both a violinist and composer. “Composing is the most natural thing for me to do—it’s as though music just comes to me," says Meg.
The ensemble, which “mixes a classically trained mastery of strings, piano and drums with (a) quick-witted compositional twist" (Down Beat Magazine, Jennifer Odell), played to sold-out concerts in Japan in 2008 and has also performed at the NYC Winter Jazz Festival, Knitting Factory, and the Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center.
Now, Meg’s Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble presents their second album, “Naima", named as a tribute to jazz icon John Coltrane, highlighting Meg’s unique new arrangement of the classic. Featuring rare instruments like the Shinobue (Japanese bamboo flute) and the erhu (a two-stringed Chinese violin), which Meg plays in addition to the violin, the album is a “collection of original works that represent and symbolize the name of (the) group." The ensemble “…elegantly intertwine(s) elements of classical, jazz and world folk into a new sound," (All About Jazz, Elliot Simon).
Today, Meg resides in New York City with her husband, soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome, and says she is living her life, fulfilling her dreams and relishing every day in new understandings and identity.
“I take to heart the new challenges of being a composer, jazz violinist, Asian American, artist and wife, while at the same time, constantly reminding myself of the responsibility to do my absolute best to achieve foremost excellence in the arts..."

Full Length Bio
Playing everything from Paganini to Coltrane, violin virtuoso Meg Okura puts a certain sparkle into jazz. Formerly a classically trained concert violinist, the composer and jazz violinist has revolutionized the world of chamber jazz by artfully entwining her already colorful and moving pieces with inspirations from various cultures and countries to create a purely enchanting experience.
Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, the multi-faceted artist cultivated her passion for music at the Toho Gakuen School of Music at the age of five. Talented and determined, Meg’s artistic ability later led to her position as concertmaster and soloist of Asian Youth Orchestra, and eventually her United States debut with the late Alexander Schneider’s New York String Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in her teenage years. She furthered her education at the Julliard School, earning both bachelors and masters degree in the study of classical violin. Soon, persuaded by her Juilliard professors’ belief in her exceptional gift in composition and improvisation, Meg began to pursue a transition from the classical violin to something even more challenging—jazz.
Studying jazz harmony and improvisation, Meg dedicated herself to mastering the tradition of jazz and soon, with her switch of genres and evolution into what she explains as “a more complete musician", Meg began to advance her career as a jazz violinist. Touring with artists such as 13-time Grammy winner Michael Brecker and Steve Swallow, and recording with jazz artists Dianne Reeves, Lee Konitz, and Sam Newsome, Meg has performed at prominent venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the Lincoln Center, and London’s Barbican Centre. In addition, she has collaborated and performed with Oscar nominee actor and Columbia recording artist Terrence Howard, as well as been featured in three Cirque du Soleil shows, exhibiting her remarkable talent as an improviser on the violin.
In 2005, however, Meg embarked on a journey unlike one she had ever endured, challenging herself as both a violinist and composer, and starting her own group.
Inspired by her experience in the various countries that comprise Asia, Meg composed and recorded a compilation of music that would soon lead to the birth of her latest project, the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble. The works she composed comprised the seven-person ensemble’s self-titled debut album, which won the group notoriety as a finalist for “Best Album" in the 2006 Independent Musicians Awards, and have made the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble the rare gem of the jazz world.
“Composing is the most natural thing for me to do—it’s as though music just comes to me. Sometimes I can be composing complicated music in my dreams and thanks to my perfect pitch, I can hear music in my head and know exactly what notes I am hearing and can write them down," says Meg.
The ensemble, which “mixes a classically trained mastery of strings, piano and drums with (a) quick-witted compositional twist" (Down Beat Magazine, Jennifer Odell), played to sold-out concerts in Japan in 2008 and has also performed at the NYC Winter Jazz Festival, Knitting Factory, and the Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center.
Now, Meg’s Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble presents their second album, “Naima", named as a tribute to jazz icon John Coltrane, highlighting Meg’s unique new arrangement of the classic.
“The first album was the music that came naturally to me without any objective. This album is…more Asian, more jazz, and more chamber music. Touring Asia as a teen was really a life-changing experience, making music with musicians representing nine different Asian countries, working closely together and traveling together. I draw upon my memories of Asia and try to access my feelings toward the people, the culture, and the nature and sceneries of Asia (for inspiration)," Meg says.
Featuring rare instruments the shinobue (Japanese bamboo flute) and the erhu (a two-stringed Chinese violin), which Meg plays in addition to the violin, the album is a “collection of original works that represent and symbolize the name of (the) group." The ensemble “…elegantly intertwine(s) elements of classical, jazz and world folk into a new sound…by presenting precisely played ethnically inspired original compositions in an exciting modern jazz context" (All About Jazz, Elliot Simon). This unique approach to music has earned her numerous grants and awards as a composer, making her to be one of today’s leading voices in the world chamber jazz.
Yet, Meg also offers two familiar tunes including the title cut “Naima." “The modal quality of Coltrane’s ‘Naima’ echoes with the music of French Impressionist period," she says. In this unique new version, she creates fluidity in texture and colors by writing arpeggios moving towards different directions while slowly shifting the chords to encompass stillness within movements. “It’s an Impressionist violin concerto meets modern Jazz with a hint of Japanese mode", Meg says. The other familiar piece on the album “Carpice", on the other hand, is a Latin jazz piece based on a theme from the famous Caprice No. 24 by the Italian composer and violinist, Nicolo Paganini. It features virtuosic cadenzas by Meg Okura herself and pianist Mamiko Kitaura.
The album ends with a 25-minute through-composed suite entitled “Lu Chai"--music inspired by a poem of the same title by Wang Wei, a great poet from the Chinese Tang Dynasty. “To play chamber jazz, most, if not all of the players in the group must be jazz improvisers," Meg says. The suite showcases variety of solos including one by the veteran jazz flutist, Anne Drummond, as well as solos on instruments not typically associated with jazz, such as the cello and even the erhu.
Today, Meg resides in New York City with her husband, soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome, and says she is living her life, fulfilling her dreams and relishing every day in new understandings and identity.
“I take to heart the new challenges of being a composer, jazz violinist, Asian American, artist and wife, while at the same time, constantly reminding myself of the responsibility to do my absolute best to achieve foremost excellence in the arts..."