Jen Shyu

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Jen Shyu
Native name
Born (1978-03-28) March 28, 1978 (age 41)
Peoria, Illinois
Years active2001–present
LabelsPi Recordings

Jen Shyu (Chinese: 徐秋雁; pinyin: Xúqiūyàn; born March 28, 1978) is an American experimental jazz vocalist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, dancer, and producer.

Early life and education[edit]

Shyu was born on March 28, 1978 in Peoria, Illinois to Taiwanese and East Timorese immigrant parents. Classically trained in piano, violin, and ballet, she had already won many piano competitions and played the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 in Bb Minor, 3rd Movement, with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra by the age of 13. She studied opera at Stanford University, graduating in 2000. Shyu also studied abroad at Oxford University during her junior year at Stanford.[1]

Musical career[edit]

Jen Shyu became known mostly for her virtuosic singing with saxophonist and 2014 MacArthur Genius Fellow Steve Coleman since 2003. She has also collaborated with innovators Anthony Braxton, Mark Dresser, Bobby Previte, Chris Potter, Michael Formanek, and David Binney to name a few, she has performed her own music around the world in such venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rubin Museum of Art, Ringling International Arts Festival, Asia Society, Roulette, Blue Note Jazz Club, Bimhuis, Salihara Theater, National Gugak Center, and National Theater of Korea and festivals around the world.

She has also studied traditional music and dance in Cuba, Taiwan, Brazil, China, South Korea, East Timor, and Indonesia, extensive research which in 2014 culminated into Solo Rites: Seven Breaths, directed by renowned Indonesian filmmaker Garin Nugroho.

Jen has produced seven albums as a leader, including Synastry (Pi 2011) with co-bandleader and bassist Mark Dresser, which made her the first female artist and vocalist as bandleader on Pi Recordings; and most recently the critically acclaimed album Sounds and Cries of the World (Pi 2015), which landed on many "Top 10 Best Albums of 2015" lists, including the New York Times[2] and The Nation.[3] It features her band Jade Tongue, currently composed of trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, violist Mat Maneri, bassist Thomas Morgan, and drummer Dan Weiss. Ben Ratliff of the New York Times calls it her "latest and best album" as well as calling her concerts "the most arresting performances I’ve seen over the past five years. It’s not just the meticulous preparation of the work and the range of its reference, but its flexibility: She seems open, instinctual, almost fearless."[4] Larry Blumenfeld writes in the Wall Street Journal, "Her voice, a wonder of technical control and unrestrained emotion, tells a story dotted with well-researched facts and wild poetic allusions. She claims both as her truths."[5]

Jen is currently based in New York City, touring with Jade Tongue and performing Solo Rites: Seven Breaths in the US and abroad. In March 2016, she premiered Song of Silver Geese, a multilingual, ritual music drama composed for her band Jade Tongue, dancer Satoshi Haga, and Mivos Quartet at Roulette. She is currently working on this and her next solo work, which will result in a United States 50-state "Songs of the World Now (SOWN)" tour in collaboration again with director Garin Nugroho.[6]


Shyu has won commissions and support from the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards (2016 Doris Duke Artist Award and 2014 Doris Duke Impact Award), MAP Fund, Jerome Foundation, Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works, New Music USA, Jazz Gallery, and Roulette, as well as fellowships from Asian Cultural Council, Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.


  • 2019 USA FELLOW in Music [7]
  • 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award [8]
  • 2014 Doris Duke Impact Award[9]
  • Fulbright scholar
  • MacDowell Fellowship[10]
  • 2007 BRIO award[11]
  • 2009 BRIO award[12]
  • 2011 BRIO award[13]




  • For Now (2002)
  • Jade Tongue (2008)
  • Synastry (2011) with Mark Dresser
  • Sounds and Cries of the World (2015) with Jade Tongue (Ambrose Akinmusire, Mat Maneri, Thomas Morgan, Dan Weiss)
  • Song of Silver Geese (2017)


  • Soko Arts Festival 2001 (2001)
  • Lewis Jordan Quartet – More Travels of a Zen Baptist (2002)
  • Doug Yokoyama Quartet – Thanks for Stopping By (2002)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements – Lucidarium (2005)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements – Weaving Symbolics (2006)
  • Miles OkazakiGenerations (2009)
  • Positive Catastrophe – Garabatos Volume One (2009)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements – Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (2010)
  • Aya Nishina – Flora (2013)
  • Dan Weiss – Sixteen: Drummers Suite (2016)


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  9. ^ "Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards". Retrieved 2016-04-29.
  10. ^ "Index of MacDowell Fellows" (listed under "composers") retrieved on July 7, 2011
  11. ^ "Bronx Council on the Arts" retrieved July 7, 2011
  12. ^ "Bronx Council on the Arts" retrieved July 7, 2011
  13. ^ Adam Wisnieski "Bronx Recognizes its Own musicians, writers and artists," The Riverdale Press June 15, 2011,48753
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  19. ^ "Our Grantees". Retrieved 2016-04-29.