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Kai Ono


""a spectacularly creative young pianist...a very poetic player"" – Orange County Register

Kai Ono is a composer-pianist, raised in the bustling suburbs of Irvine, California and currently stationed by the colorful wheatfields of Lawrence, Kansas. He is a passionate fanatic of the color grey, the sound of laughter, and things that fly.

Known for his fluency in multiple genres on the piano, he has received national acclaim in multiple jazz and classical piano competitions and performances around the United States, including his recent award at the West Virginia Intersection of Jazz and Classical Festival for his ""excellence in both genres."" A winner at the Rosalyn Tureck Fourth International Bach Competition and the Celia Mendez Young Artists' Beethoven Competition, Kai has had the opportunity to play for artists such as Wynton and Delfayo Marsalis, Jon Kimura Parker, Alon Goldstein, Steven Wilson, and Martin Katz. Kai is currently a member of the Additive Color Ensemble, along with flutist Brian Allred and saxophonist Dave Berrios. The three musicians engage in multiple commissioning, educational outreach, and improvisation exploration projects.

Recently, Kai was a recipient of Downbeat Magazine’s Undergraduate College Outstanding Composition for Big Band for his piece “Everybody is with Everybody Else”, performed at the Jazz at the Lincoln Center in New York City. His piece, Two Novellas for Clarinet and Piano was a winner of both the NFMC Student Composition Awards and the NFMC Emil and Ruth Beyer Composition Awards. Just recently, he presented his new work A Tibetan Monk in Times Square with the Additive Color Ensemble at the Society of Composers, Inc. Student National Conference at Ball State University, Indiana. Kai himself has also premiered some of his works at the Hoson House Classical Series in Orange County, California.

The people of his life are Kai's greatest sources of inspiration for his compositions. With also a passion for design processes, Kai has found enjoyment lately experimenting with the structure of concerts and venues. He also is exploring to understand how the untrained ear perceives music, and how this may influence the way people should or shouldn’t make programs.

Currently, Kai is engaged in multiple projects: he is working with trumpeter Daniel Gerona in his most recent work Doing the Right Thing, preparing to perform it at national trumpet competitions. He is also collaborating with soprano Lauryn Reid to write for her a song cycle of poetry by Samuel Daniel. Lastly, he’s released an album recently, with electronic music that was originally written for a video game.

As a recently awarded Presser Scholar studying as a senior pursuing a BM in Piano Performance and Composition at the University of Kansas under Dr. Scott McBride Smith for piano, James Barnes, Dr. Forrest Pierce, Dr. Kip Haaheim, and Dan Gailey for composition, and TJ Martley for jazz, Kai is currently getting by accompanying ballet classes and playing background music for humbly classy dinner parties and receptions.

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