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 from the world’s preeminent performing arts institutions, including sold-out performances at the Stuttgart Ballet in Germany, The National Orchestra of Korea, Aspen Philharmonic Orchetra, and the New York Choreographic Institute at 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 2018 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 2019-20 season highlights consist of premieres and performances by the Minnesota Orchestra, Grammy-winning soprano Jessica Rivera at the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy, and Misato Hanawa at Tokyo City Opera. Other projects include commissions from the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra as the sole winner of the Jacob Druckman Prize, as well as the Chelsea Music Festival.
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.”
After making a name for herself as a distinguished member of the New York Youth Symphony’s composition program, Sohn’s musical voice has been sought after for residency by the world’s preeminent music festivals, consorts, and ensembles. Festival appearances include the Aspen Music Festival and School, Les Ecoles d’Art Américaines de Fontainebleau, Ars Nova with Unsuk Chin and the Seoul Philharmonic, and the Summer Festival of the Moscow Conservatory of Music, among others. Residencies have included the Avalon Music Consort in Sweden, Washington Square Winds in New York City, and Project: 音 Sound 음 in Korea.
Nicky Sohn currently shares her time between Berlin, New York City, and her hometown of Seoul, 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, Chris Theofanidis, William Bolcom, Derek Bermel, Richard Danielpour, and David Tcimpidis.