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a complete artist and a major one at that, who is unafraid to experiment and weave many musical worlds into one.”
All About Jazz

Violinist and composer Meg Okura is the latest winner of the International Society of Jazz Arrangers and Composers (ISJAC) Fundamental Freedoms Commission Prize. The New York Times called her music "grandiloquent beauty that transitions easily from grooves to big cascades to buoyant swing"(Giovanni Russonello), Meg Okura is the leader and the founder of the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble based in New York. A Tokyo native, Okura is a Grammy-nominated violinist and award-winning composer based in New York. She toured Asia as the soloist and concertmaster of the Asian Youth Orchestra in her teenage years. Her journey in the U.S. began with a solo concerto debut at the Kennedy Center in 1992 with the late Alexander Schneider's New York String Orchestra. She earned B.M. and M.M. degrees from the Juilliard School in violin performance, where she studied the violin with Lewis Kaplan and Masao Kawasaki, chamber music with Robert Mann, Samuel Sanders, and Seymour Lipkin, and was the concertmaster of the Juilliard Opera Orchestra. She has performed at esteemed venues worldwide, including Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, Lincoln Center, Barbican Hall in the U.K., Village Vanguard, Blue Note Tokyo, Hollywood Bowl, and numerous international jazz and Jewish music festivals.

As a violinist, she has performed and recorded with many jazz greats, including Lee Konitz, Steve Swallow, and Tom Harrell. She also toured Japan and the U.S. with the late Michael Brecker’s Quindectet with musical director Gil Goldstein. Okura has contributed to over 100 projects, including film, TV, live videos, and albums with artists like David Bowie, Diane Reeves, JC Sanford, Erica Seguine, and Emilio Solla y La Inestable de Brooklyn, earning her a Grammy nomination as a violinist.  

 

Dubbed "the queen of chamber jazz" by All About Jazz, Ms. Okura leads her Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble, appearing in its hometown of New York at Birdland Jazz Club, Blue Note, Knitting Factory, Roulette, Dizzy's JALC, Winter JazzFest, as well as Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., K.L. Jazz Festival in Malaysia, and sold-out concerts in Japan.

Ms. Okura has released seven albums under her name, and “Lingering” her duo project with pianist Kevin Hays was released on May 10, 2024. Her 10-piece Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble’s highly anticipated fifth album, featuring Randy Brecker is to be released later this year. In 2018, Meg placed No. 6 Jazz Violinist in the International Critics Polls.

Meg Okura and the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble have released four critically acclaimed albums: a self-titled debut album (2006), Naima (2010,) Music of Ryuichi Sakamoto (2013), and Ima Ima (2018), chosen the "Best Releases of 2018" by Dan Bilawsky on All About Jazz as well as the New York Times Editor's Pick, and her release of 2018 NPO Trio Live at The Stone (Sam Newsome, Jean-Michel Pilc, Meg Okura) was Bandcamp's Best of March 2018.

Okura is also the musical director and arranger of the Sakamoto Tribute Ensemble, an ensemble dedicated to performing works by composer Ryuichi Sakamoto who passed away in 2023. She is also a classical chamber musician, touring and recording with such artists as cellist Dave Eggar and clarinetist Tasha Warren, playing anything from Dvorak to Messiaen to Okura.

In the spring of 2024, her classical chamber music composition "Phantasmagoria" for bass calrinet/clarinet, cello and violin was chosen to be performed at the TUTTI Festival in Columbus, Ohio, the Festival of New Music in Tallahassee, Florida, LunART Festival in Madison, Wisconsin, as the winner of the call for scores competitions. The piece was recently chosen for the SOLI Ensemble’s 30x30x30 Project. 

 

Ms. Okura will be spending part of the summer at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts as the recipient of the 50th Anniversary VCCA Fellowships for Artists of Color, 2024. She is also the winner of the 2022 and 2024 BRIO (Bronx Recognizes Its Own) Awards, 2021 NYC Women's Fund for Media, Music & Theater, 2021 Jazz Road Creative Residencies, 2020 Copland House Residency Awards, 2018 Chamber Music America New Jazz Works grant, and many other grants and awards.

 

In February, the Meg Okura & Kevin Hays duo had just returned from their 6-town/city tour as one of the recipients of the 2023 Jazz Road Tours, a national initiative of South Arts. The tour is funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with additional support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

 

As the 2023 winner of the ISJAC Fundamental Freedom Commission Awards, the world premiere of her new composition, “Silent Screams: An Anthem for the Unheard,” took place at Vanderbilt in Nazhville, TN, on May 18, 2024 at the ISJAC Symposium, where she received the award.

​Okura’s latest commissioned work, as the winner of the 2024 Wa-hi Jazz Composition Competition, will be performed by her Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble in New York City on November 2, 2024.

“From Asia to Africa and the Americas, and from classical to jazz—via the inspiration of electronic music—Okura sees beauty everywhere and translates it into her own exquisite idiom.”

All About Jazz

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