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

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

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.”