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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

Avery Sunshine is known for her irresistible combination of soul, jazz and gospel influences. She’s traveled the world entertaining audiences with her powerful voice, inspiring lyrics and infectious spirit. She joins host Shawna Renee on "The Soul Lounge" to perform and share the stories behind her new album, "The Sun Room."