Gustavus Artist Series: Karen Tanaka

Posted on October 12th, 2022 by

From October 14th through 17th, pianist and composer Karen Tanaka will be visiting Gustavus as a guest artist. She will be hosting lectures, teaching classes and individual lessons, and performing on campus for Gusties, high school students, and the community.

“Tanaka is an acclaimed composer in both the U.S. and Japan”, says Professor Yumiko Oshima-Ryan. “It is a great opportunity for students to meet with her in person and work with her. Karen is my dear friend from Toho Music Academy and she is very excited to meet students at Gustavus. She wants to talk about music for films and animations, and for video games, which I am sure many students want to ask a lot of questions about”.

Tanaka will introduce contemporary Japanese music and musical trends throughout her residency to enrich the Gustavus community, and she will share her passion for environmental protection and justice through a series of piano compositions titled “Our Planet Earth”. These works will encourage those who hear them to love our planet and work harder to take care of it. Tanaka’s love of nature and concern for the environment has influenced many of her works, including Questions of Nature, Frozen Horizon, Water and Stone, Dreamscape, Ocean, Silent Ocean, Tales of Trees, Water Dance, Crystalline series, and Children of Light.

“Tanaka shares her passion for caring for our environment through a set of short piano works titled, ‘Our Planet Earth’ which highlights her message to love our precious Planet Earth. We will hear this work at the Showcase Concert,” Oshima-Ryan said.

On Friday the 14th, Tanaka will be offering private piano lessons, visiting music theory classes, hosting a colloquium for music majors that will involve piano, video, and composition, and hosting a public lecture entitled “Music for Film and Electronic Media in Bjorling Recital Hall at 7:30 PM. Saturday the 15th, Tanaka will be hosting high school students on campus, providing composition workshops and holding individual lessons with students. To end the event, the showcase concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. Following the showcase, a reception will be held for Tanaka with Gustavus students and the community.

A student showcase recital will be held on October 15th, the final day of Tanaka’s residency. It will be an event that includes the music, art, and dance departments showcasing their works – some of which will be coached by Tanaka herself during her residency on campus.

Tanaka is an exceptionally versatile composer and pianist, and has composed extensively; her works include concert pieces, film scores, and multiple pieces of electronic media. According to the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, “Her music is delicate and emotive, beautifully crafted, showing a refined ear for both detail and large organic shapes”. Her works have been performed by distinguished ensembles worldwide, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Tokyo-based NHK Symphony Orchestra. She has also scored numerous short films, animations, and documentaries.




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