International Soloist - United States
KUNIKO is a soloist who is recognised around the world as one of the most gifted and significant percussionists of her generation in today’s contemporary & classical music scene. Her technical virtuoso, exquisite musical insight and expressive, yet elegant performance style continues to attract not only audiences, but named maestros and composers too. She is renowned for her flawless technique when playing both keyboard and percussion instruments, which blends seamlessly with her profound musical intelligence. KUNIKO’s native Japanese DNA gives colourful language and dimension to her superb interpretations.
KUNIKO studied under the world marimba legend Keiko Abe at Toho Gakuen School of Music in Tokyo, Japan and advanced her studies under Robert Van Sice at Rotterdam Conservatorium in the Netherlands. KUNIKO graduated with the highest honour (summa cum laude) as the first percussionist in the institution’s history. Whilst studying, KUNIKO continued to develop her professional career, playing various concertos and solo recitals, including the Concerto for Marimba and String Orchestra written by Akira Miyoshi.
After graduation, she explored Europe for over ten years, further developing her music and artistic career. During this time, she won awards in various competitions and foundations, including the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis from the Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt in 1996, second prize at the International Leigh Howard Stevens Marimba competition in 1996 and a Cultural Award from her town Toyohashi, Japan in 2002, amongst other awards. In 1997, KUNIKO recorded James Wood's Marimba Concerto in London where her performance was highly complimented by the BBC. In addition, KUNIKO was a guest soloist at the James Wood Portrait concert at the 2001 Huddersfield Festival and this performance has received airplay on the BBC radio. In 1999, KUNIKO released her first solo album To The Earth.
Career highlights for KUNIKO include the Japanese premiere of the music theatre production of The Pure Land (Jodo) in 2005 by James Wood; a story based on Yukio Mishima’s novel The Priest of Shiga Temple and His Love. In May 2006, KUNIKO revived the legendary percussion concerto Cassiopeia by Toru Takemitsu as a part of the Takemitsu Memorial Concert at Tokyo Opera City in Japan. The performance was recorded live and is available on a limited edition CD. Continually performing around the world, during the 2008-09 season alone, KUNIKO showcased a solo recital at Sao Paulo University as part of the first International Percussion Festival, appeared at the historic Monday Evening Concert series in Los Angeles, performed a solo recital at Vancouver New Music Society and a double concerto by Unsuk Chin at the Suntory Summer Festival in addition to many other dates.
More recently, KUNIKO has been involved in the production of a new live performance titled Sound Space Experiment - Steel Drum Works in Tokyo, Japan in March 2009. At this performance, she gave the world-premiere of Electric Counterpoint, transcribed for steel pans, marimba and vibraphone by Steve Steve. In 2010 she was invited to perform concerts and master classes in many countries over the globe including Canada, Australia, Portugal, Congo and South Africa. Additionally, KUNIKO has been involved in the revival concerts of Steel Drum Works in Vancouver, Saitama and Itami, Japan. In 2011, KUNIKO’s Steel Drum Works will be presented as a grand concert at the international music festival les flâneries musicales de Reims in France.
Today KUNIKO continues to perform and collaborate in many recitals and recording sessions with various world-renowned composers, conductors and orchestras including Franco Donatoni, James Wood, Toru Takemitsu, Ianis Xenakis, Seiji Ozawa, Steve Reich and Unsuk Chin. Along with her solo performances in Asia, Europe and the United States, she has been a member of various orchestras and chamber groups such as the Saito Kinen Orchestra (Japan), Ensemble ICTUS (Belgium) and Ensemble NOMAD (Tokyo). Additionally, the extremely versatile KUNIKO has been actively involved in various creative art scenes and has partnered with prominent artists from different genres of performing arts, including Megumi Nakamura, a dancer with the Netherlands Dance Theatre, Satoshi Miyagi, theatre director and Za Ondecoza, a Japanese taiko drumming troop amongst other collaborations. KUNIKO also produces commercial music, including theme music for the television program NHK Art Theatre.
KUNIKO is strongly committed to music education through various forms of percussion workshops, master classes and open rehearsals whenever possible in conjunction with her solo recitals. Since 2004, she has been conducting a series of log drum (slit drum) workshops for children with mental disabilities in Japan and she plans to continue to devote her skills and talents toward music education and cultural contribution.
KUNIKO has been performing as one of a few worldwide endorsers of Adams Musical Instruments and Pearl Musical Instruments. She currently resides in U.S.A.
MAHC50 Adams Artist Classic 5.0 oct Marimba
AV1 Adams Artist Vibraphone
PTA Pearl Philharmonic African Mahogany Concert Toms
PBA Pearl Philharmonic African mahogany Bass Drum
PHM Pearl Philharmonic Solid Maple Snare Drum
Pearl Percussion Congas and Bongos