B i o g r a p h y
From ballet to opera to Korean traditional-orchestra, the wide-ranging talent of composer Nicky Sohn is sought after across the United States, Europe, and Asia. Characterized by her jazz-inspired, rhythmically driven themes, Sohn’s work has received praise from international press for being “dynamic and full of vitality” (The Korea Defense Daily), having “colorful orchestration” (NewsBrite), and for its “elegant wonder” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), among many others. As a result, Sohn has enjoyed commissions and performances from the world’s preeminent performing arts institutions, including Stuttgart Ballet, National Orchestra of Korea, Minnesota Orchestra, Sarasota Orchestra, Aspen Philharmonic, and New York City Ballet.
While Sohn has a lengthy oeurve of solo, chamber, and orchestral work, her current speciality lies within theatrical music, such as ballet and opera. As Sohn herself puts it, “I’m obsessed with the collaborative aspects of it—working with choreographers, for example. Hearing my own work melding with someone else’s imagination is incredibly fulfilling.” This includes a commission from the National Theater of Korea, in which Sohn composed a lengthy work for Korean traditional instrumentation and appeared on national television. After receiving numerous accolades, the complete work continues to be televised on Arte TV’s Korean network.
The 2020-21 season highlights consist of premieres and performances by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, violinist Lucia Lin (Boston Symphony), string quartet commission for the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, the Moody Center, Carpe Diem String Quartet, and Atlanta Chamber Players. Sohn recently received fellowships from The DACAMERA Young Artist Program and MUSIQA Houston and was chosen as the first recipient of the UCross Foundation fellowship through Rice University. Prior to this year, her music has been featured at renowned music festivals including the Aspen Music Festival, Perlman Music Program, Les Ecoles d’Art Américaines de Fontainebleau, Ars Nova with Unsuk Chin and the Seoul Philharmonic, and Chelsea Music Festival with Ken-David Masur, among others.
In listening to Nicky Sohn’s music, you may hear influences from jazz greats such as Chet Baker, Bill Evans, and Antônio Carlos Jobim, as well as the living composers Michael Torke, David Del Tredici, and Esa-Pekka Salonen. “Much of their music,” Sohn says, “is characterized not just by major and minor triads at their foundation, but also a very organic way of generating rhythmic patterns—you get a natural sense of forward motion that’s also harmonically compelling.”
Sohn is also one of the co-founders of Sounding Board: The New Music Initiative for Guitarists and Composers along with the world-renowned guitarist Bokyung Byun. The project focuses on promoting collaborative relationships between composers and performers to create new works for guitar, and its inaugural festival in Besançon, France in 2019 has been praised as “extraordinary, in the strict sense of the word,” by La Presse de Gray in France. For the 2020 season, Sounding Board has commissioned 15 composers for their project called "Catharsis" inspired by the Guitar Foundation of America's #Tearsfor2020 movement.
Nicky Sohn is currently pursuing a fully-funded doctoral degree at the The Shepherd School of Music of Rice University and holds a Master of Music Diploma from The Juilliard School. Her early years are marked by a voracious eagerness to learn: Already a student of piano at the age of two, she began seriously studying composition at the age of seven. At fourteen, Sohn completed her high school diploma, and would go on to receive both a Bachelor of Music degree and a Diploma of Piano Performance from the Mannes College of Music. She is grateful to her pedagogues, which include Robert Beaser, Anthony Brandt, Chris Theofanidis, and Richard Danielpour.