News / Arts & Entertainment

Helen Sung Showcases Her Love for Jazz on 'Anthem for A New Day'

Pianist and composer Helen Sung (courtesy photo by Kat Villacorta).
Pianist and composer Helen Sung (courtesy photo by Kat Villacorta).
Diaa Bekheet
Pianist and composer Helen Sung is establishing herself firmly in jazz. Sung's sixth album, Anthem For A New Day, showcases some of her original compositions and other interpretations of songs by great musicians, including jazz icons Thelonious Monk and Chick Corea.  It is her first recording on a major music label.

After training as a classical pianist, the Houston, Texas native said it was a complete paradigm shift for her to leave classical music to focus on jazz, swing, and bebop.

"I always tell people my musical emancipation began with jazz," said Sung, who began studying music at age nine. “I knew I didn’t want to be someone who could kind of, you know, fake it because I had the technique. I really wanted to be an authentic jazz player with something genuine to say.”


Sung was bitten by the jazz bug when one of her college mates invited her to a Harry Connick Jr. concert. “It was in the middle of that concert … I remember just wanting to jump out of my skin because, you know, this guy is playing the piano in a way as if attacking the piano, playing in a way I was taught not to do,” she recalled.

The concert exposed Sung to a new world she knew nothing about. “The rules were totally different and the music is so alive. It just grabbed me,” she explained.

Afterwards, Sung says she had to find out whatever she could about jazz. She took a beginning jazz piano class in college, and continued her studies at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance. In fact, she is a graduate of the school's inaugural class.  “I was so fortunate to get accepted, the first class ever I started out at the New England Conservatory Institute in Boston. It kind of sealed the deal for me.” she said.
 

Helen Sung in her studio (courtesy photo by Kat Villacorta).Helen Sung in her studio (courtesy photo by Kat Villacorta).
x
Helen Sung in her studio (courtesy photo by Kat Villacorta).
Helen Sung in her studio (courtesy photo by Kat Villacorta).
Sung has not given up totally on classical music. Her background shows in her rendition of Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing) on the new album, Anthem For A New Day.


Among guest musicians who contributed to the new album are violinist Regina Carter and Cuban-born clarinetist & saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera.

Sung says her next project could be an album about poetry-inspired jazz.

In 2007, she participated in the taping of the American public television series “In Performance at The White House” where she met renowned poet Dana Gioia. He encouraged her to read poetry.  "He sent me some of his work, so I started reading (poetry) again. And then I discovered if I try to set words to music, it would actually help me with understanding the poem,” said Sung. “That started me on an adventure, and I would love to record this project next. I’ve kind of accumulated eight to ten songs of music written and inspired by poet Dana Gioia.”
 


Listen to more music and interviews here on Jazz Beat 

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”