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Susie Ibarra (born Anaheim, California, November 15, 1970) is a contemporary composer and percussionist who has worked and recorded with jazz, classical, world, and Indigenous musicians. She is known for her work as a performer in avant-garde, jazz, world and new music. As a composer, Ibarra incorporates diverse styles and influences of Philippine Kulintang, jazz, classical, poetry, musical theater, opera and electronic music. Ibarra remains active as a composer, performer, educator and documentary filmmaker in the U.S., Philippines and internationally. She is interested and involved in works that blend folkloric and indigenous tradition with avant-garde. In 2004, Ibarra began field recording indigenous Philippine music and co-founded in 2009, Song of the Bird King, an organization focusing on preservation of Indigenous music and ecology. She currently resides with her husband, Cuban composer and percussionist, Roberto Juan Rodriguez and their son, Emanuel, in Forest Hills, Queens, New York.
Ibarra was born in Anaheim, California, and raised in Houston, Texas. Her parents Bartolome and Herminia Ibarra are both physicians who immigrated from the Philippines. Ibarra is the youngest of five children. She began playing piano at the age of four. In grade school she sang in church and school choirs and played in a punk rock band in high school. While at Sarah Lawrence College in the late 1980s, Ibarra attended a Sun Ra performance which she has credited with kindling her interest in jazz. She also attended the Mannes College The New School for Music, and Goddard College, where she received her B.A. in Music.
Ibarra has lived in New York since 1989.
She has studied with notable jazz and avant-jazz drummers Vernel Fournier, Earl Buster Smith and Milford Graves. She has studied Philippine Kulintang music with National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Artist and USA Artists Danongan "Danny" Kalanduyan as well as the Kalanduyan family in the United States and in Cotabato, Mindanao Philippines.
As a performer
She was named "Best Percussionist" in the 2010 Downbeat International Readers Poll and "Best Percussionist, Rising Star" in the 2009 Downbeat Critics Poll. Ibarra has been featured on the cover of percussion magazines such as Tom-Tom, September 2010, and Modern Drummer, Changing the Game, December 2010. She is a member of the Modern Drummer Pro-Panel discussion on drumming and music for 2011. Ibarra is a Yamaha Drums, Vic Firth and Paiste Cymbals Artist.
Susie Ibarra continues to tour and perform internationally in music festivals and other venues. She has received music commissions and has performed her work for Zankel Hall in Carnegie Hall, NYC; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; The Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.; Banlieues Bleues Festival in Paris; Tampere Jazz Happening in Finland; Philippine Women's University in Manila; Lincoln Center in NYC; San Francisco Jazz Festival; TED (conference) in Long Beach, California; Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona, Spain; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; De Singel in Antwerp; the Barbican Centre in the United Kingdom.
She has performed and recorded with noted artists, including:
Pauline Oliveros, John Zorn, Dave Douglas (trumpeter), Yusef Komunyakaa, Trisha Brown, Tania Leon, Roberto Juan Rodriguez, Makoto Fujimura, Juan Sanchez, Jim Clark, Jude Tallichet, Laiwan Chung, Min Xiaofen, Derek Bailey, Ikue Mori, Sylvie Courvoisier, William Parker (musician), David S. Ware, Assif Tsahar, Matthew Shipp, Billy Bang, Jeanne Lee, Miya Masaoka, George Lewis (trombonist), Dr. L. Subramaniam, Kavita Krishnamurthi, Wang Ping (author), Luis Francia, Wadada Leo Smith, Mark Dresser, Kathleen Supové, Jennifer Choi, Craig Taborn, Bridget Kibbey, Jade Simmons, Arto Lindsay, Thurston Moore, Prefuse 73, Yo La Tengo, Humanfolk, Mephista.
Indigenous Music and Ecology
Ibarra began field recording kulintang gong music in the Philippines in 2004. In 2008, she received an Asian Cultural Council Fellowship to research Indigenous and Folkloric music in the Philippines. Ibarra and her husband, Roberto Juan Rodriguez, researched, recorded and filmed seven endangered Indigenous tribes in the Philippines in 2008-09, as well as documented the conservation efforts on behalf of the near extinct Philippine eagle. They co-founded, in 2009, Song of the Bird King to focus on the preservation of Indigenous music and Ecology.
Susie Ibarra is recipient of the 2010 TED Fellowship “recognizing her as a young world-changer and trailblazer who has shown unusual accomplishment and exceptional courage.” She was also awarded a 2010 New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship for Music Composition and a 2008 Asian Cultural Council Rockefeller Fellow. Because of her research in Folkloric and Indigenous music in the Philippines with seven Indigenous tribes, Asia Society nominated her as a delegate of Asia 21 Young World Leaders Summit:“Unity Through Diversity” in Jakarta, 2010.
With husband and Cuban-Composer Roberto Juan Rodriguez, Ibarra co-founded Mundo Niños® LLC, a children's group that performs and teaches music in multi-languages to small children, grade-schoolers, and to underserved communities of disabled, Indigenous and orphaned children.
Musical works as composer and performer
In 2004, Ibarra recorded Folkloriko, a cycle of 11 pieces dedicated to a day in the life of a Filipino migrant worker. The work was premiered at the Freer Gallery of Art of the Smithsonian Institution in conjunction with the first Filipino photography exhibit by Ricardo Alvarado. Recorded on Tzadik Records and performed by Jennifer Choi (violin), Craig Taborn (piano), Wadada Leo Smith (trumpet) and Ibarra (drums and percussion).
In 2006 Ibarra released, Dialects by Electric Kulintang on Plastic Records, a duo collaboration with Roberto Juan Rodriguez with compositions featuring electronics, kulintang gongs, percussion, drums and field recordings.
In 2007, American Composers Orchestra commissioned Pintados Dream/The Painted’s Dream, a drum concerto with Ibarra soloing, a chamber orchestra and visual art by Makoto Fujimura which world premiered at Carnegie Zankel Hall in October of that year.
In February 2007 she composed for a commission by Ars Nova Workshop in Philadelphia, Kit: Music for Four Pianists, eight-hand piano, in an evening work of Ibarra’s percussion music.
Also in 2007, her solo CD, Drum Sketches, was commissioned by The Brecht Forum and American Composers Forum on Innova Recordings. These solo pieces are performed and recorded by Ibarra on drum kit, sarunay and kulintang (Philippine xylophone and eight rowed gongs), also including field recordings. They are sonic sketches of Ibarra’s sound that include both traditional and avant-garde musical idioms.
In August 2008, MoMa Summergarden and Jazz at Lincoln Center commissioned Ibarra for a premiere of Summer Fantasy and Folklore at the MoMa Summergarden. Ibarra premiered the suite inspired by summers in Houston, New York and Manila with the debut of her quartet featuring Jennifer Choi (violin), Kathleen Supove (piano), Bridget Kibbey (harp) and Susie Ibarra (drumset and percussion).
Also in 2008, Ibarra composed and recorded the music for video installation art, Madre Selva: Homage to Ana Mendieta, created by Visual Artist and Guggenheim Fellow, Juan Sanchez for his exhibition at Lehigh University's Zoellner Arts Center, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The art work is a tribute to the late Cuban American sculptor, installation and performance artist, Ana Mendieta.
In 2010 Music Theatre Group produced two residencies of Saturnalia, a new music theatre work, composed by Ibarra, written by Yusef Komunyakaa, directed by Daniel Fish and music directed by John diPinto. The new music work features 10 actor/singers, the Young Peoples Chorus of NYC, and a chamber ensemble. Saturnalia is a bicultural musical theatre work sung in English and Thai. The story is set in Thailand and portrays the illusion of Paradise that masks a psychological warfare in the minds of US soldiers, and business men and women enslaved in sex trafficking.
Electric Kulintang will release and premiere a new work and recording, Drum Codes, on Earth Day April 21, 2011, at The Atrium in Lincoln Center.
Ibarra will continue performing with her chamber jazz ensemble, Susie Ibarra Quartet, featuring Bridget Kibbey (harp), Kathleen Supove (piano), Jennifer Choi (violin) and Ibarra (drumset and percussion).
Ibarra will record and release in 2011, Mysteries of Nature, music for solo, duos and quartets with guest soloists.
Upcoming Song of the Bird King projects
Song of the Bird King will incorporate into a non-profit in 2011, serving as an organization contributing to the cultural and environmental preservation of Indigenous music and ecology. The organization works towards global preservation with a focus on Asia/Pacific and Americas. In collaboration with Asia Society's Asia 21 Young Leaders program, Song of the Bird King will lead a public service project in Indigenous music and culture for 2011-12. This project will feature three compilations on Indigenous music and folkloric stories, peace songs from regions of conflict, and music by children. These compilations will benefit the eagle preservation center in Davao City, Philippines, the Peace Museum in Nepal, and a children's foundation to help orphans in China whose parents have died or are dying of AIDS.
Song of the Bird King will launch a new label, SOTBK, in 2011 to feature contemporary Indigenous music and public service compilation CDs.
A Song of the Bird King titled film, on the lives and stories of seven indigenous Filipino tribes, is a work in progress.
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