Stephen M. Sano

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Stephen M. Sano
Occupation(s) Musician, conductor
Instruments Piano, guitar

Stephen M. Sano (born 1959) is professor of music and the Harold C. Schmidt director of choral studies at Stanford University.[1] Using the name Steve Sano, he is also an accomplished kī hō'alu, or slack-key guitar, player.[2]


Sano is a native of Palo Alto, California. His father, Iwao Peter Sano, is a second generation Japanese American who, as a second son, was adopted by relatives in Japan. The elder Sano describes his experiences in Japan as a member of the Japanese Army and Russian prisoner of war in his book One Thousand Days in Siberia.[3] Sano's mother, Minako Sano, is a graduate of Tsuda College. She immigrated from Tokyo to California in the 1950s.[4]

Sano graduated from San Jose State University with a B.A. in Piano Performance and Theory from the studio of Aiko Onishi[5] and worked as Executive Director of the Peninsula Symphony[6] before attending Stanford where he earned his M.A. and D.M.A. in Choral and Orchestral Conducting under the guidance of William Ramsey.


Sano is currently the Chair of the Stanford Department of Music where he directs the Stanford Chamber Chorale and Stanford Symphonic Chorus, teaches conducting, and offers seminars in kī hō'alu and North American taiko. He was the recipient of the 2004 Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching at Stanford[7] and the 2001 Asian American Faculty Award.[8]

The Stanford Chamber Chorale is the University's select group of 24 undergraduate and graduate student singers which, under Sano's direction, records, tours annually, has collaborated with artists such as England's Tallis Scholars; the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge; Chatham Baroque; Paco Peña; and the Kronos Quartet, recorded a collection of works for Kirke Mechem,[9] and premiered works by Melissa Hui, Takeo Kudo, Jonathan Berger, Giancarlo Aquilanti, and Howard Helvey.[10]

The Stanford Symphonic Chorus is the university's largest choir and includes students, faculty, staff and community members.[11] In 2008, Stanford orchestra director, Jindong Cai, and Sano led the combined Stanford choirs, orchestra, Stanford Taiko, pianist Jon Nakamatsu and the St. Lawrence String Quartet to China on a goodwill tour prior to the Beijing Summer Olympics.[12][13]

Kī hō'alu[edit]

Sano is a student of kī hō'alu, or Hawaiian slack-key guitar, and has recorded two solo albums on the Daniel Ho Creations label[14][15] and two collections of duets with his teacher and mentor, Ozzie Kotani.[16]

Sano also teaches a seminar about the art form[17] and actively supports the presentation of Hawaiian music at Stanford.[18][19]

Selected Choral Recordings[edit]

  • A Celebration of Life. Arsis Audio, 2009.
  • Kirke Mechem: 7 Joys of Christmas and Beyond. Arsis Audio, 2005.
  • Choral Reflections. Pictoria Records, 2002.
  • Voices of Christmas. Pictoria Records, 1999.
  • My Spirit Sang All Day: A Portrait in Song. Stanford University Records, 1998.

Selected Kiho'alu Recordings[edit]

  • Songs from the Taro Patch: Na Mele Mai Na Lo’i Kalo. Daniel Ho Creations, 2007.
  • With Ozzie Kotani. Omoide: Remembrance. Daniel Ho Creations, 2003.
  • With Ozzie Kotani. A Taro Patch Christmas. Daniel Ho Creations, 2001.
  • Pu’ukani. Daniel Ho Creations, 2000.


  1. ^ "Music Expert – Stephen Sano". Humanities at Stanford. 
  2. ^ "Steve Sano Hawaiian Slack Key Guitarist". Stanford University. 
  3. ^ "One Thousand Days in Siberia". University of Nebraska Press. 1999. 
  4. ^ "Witnesses to history". Palo Alto Weekly. 2009. 
  5. ^ "Aiko Onishi". American Matthay Association Directory. 
  6. ^ "Steve Sano on the musical threads in his life". Stanford University News Service. 1997. 
  7. ^ "Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching". Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences. 
  8. ^ "Asian American Past Awardees". Stanford Asian American Activities. 
  9. ^ "Kirke Mechem: Seven Joys of Christmas & Beyond". Arsis Audio. 
  10. ^ "About the Stanford Chamber Chorale". Stanford University. 
  11. ^ "Stanford University: Stanford Symphonic Chorus". Stanford University. 
  12. ^ "Stanford musicians to tour China". ABC Local News. 2008. 
  13. ^ "Tuning Up in China". Stanford Magazine. 2008. 
  14. ^ "Island Mele Review: Songs from the Taro Patch". Honolulu Star Bulletin. 2007. 
  15. ^ "Steve Sano Songs From the Taro Patch". Behind The Beat. 2007. 
  16. ^ "Gems, lumps of coal lurk in isle holiday CDs". Honolulu Star Bulletin. 2001. 
  17. ^ "A Flowering of Hawaiian Culture". Stanford Magazine. 2003. 
  18. ^ "Slack key guitar festival at Stanford". Stanford News Service. 1997. 
  19. ^ "Jake Shimabukuro and Stephen Sano". Artsopolis. 2005. 

External links[edit]