Susie Ibarra

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Susie Ibarra is a Filipina American composer, improviser, percussionist and sound artist. Ibarra plays drumset, Philippine kulintang gongs, various hand drums and mallet percussion. She creates both live and immersive music for performance and installation that explores rhythm, Indigenous practices, and interaction with cities and the natural world.

Ibarra is a Yamaha Drums, Vic Firth Sticks and Mallets and Paiste Drum Artist since 2000.

She is a 2010 TEDFellow and 2014 TEDSenior Fellow. Her music practice has led her to work in public action focused on communities in arts, cities, and Indigenous cultural and environmental conservation.

Ibarra is a Faculty member at Bennington College where she teaches Percussion, Performance and at the Center for Advancement in Public Action with focused advocacy on Human Rights extended equally to women and girls and Rebuilding Cities with the Arts.

Early years[edit]

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.[1]

Ibarra currently resides in Kerhonkson, New York , near the New York Appalachian Mountains.

She has studied with notable jazz and avant-jazz drummers Vernel Fournier, Earl Buster Smith and Milford Graves. She has studied Philippine Kulintang music[1] 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.


She performed in New York City with many musicians and groups from the Avant-Garde Jazz community. Ibarra performed and recorded with William Parker, David S. Ware, Matthew Shipp, Assif Tsahar, Roy Campbell, among others. She also performed with the New York downtown improvisers scene with musicians John Zorn, Ikue Mori, Zeena Parkins, Sylvie Courvoisier , Min Xiao Fen, Derek Bailey.

1998 Ibarra releases, Radiance, an album of trio music , on Hopscotch Records.

1999 Ibarra performs solo piece, All Fours for the Drum Bum, by Pauline Oliveros at Weill Recital Hall.

In 1999 Ibarra was invited by John Zorn and recorded , Flower after Flower, for the Tzadik Composer Series. on Tzadik Records.


Ibarra performs with Wadada Leo Smith, Kathleen Supove, Craig Taborn, Jennifer Choi, Sylvie Courvoisier, Ikue Mori, Yo La Tengo, Thurston Moore, Prefuse 73, Roberto Juan Rodriguez

She records two records with collective trio Mephista for Tzadik , Black Narcissus and Epistemological Reflections. Ibarra also records for Tzadik with her own trio, Songbird Suite and Folkloriko in 2002 ad 2004.

2004 Ibarra is invited to premiere Folkloriko, a suite of music for Susie Ibarra Trio, dedicated to a day in the life of a migrant worker at the Smithsonian Freer Gallery. This features the photography of Filipino American photographer Ricardo Alvarado.

Ibarra meets and performs with Pulitzer Poet Yusef Komunyakaa. They begin writing lyric and song , opera and performance pieces together. In 2005 they workshop at The Kitchen, an opera , Shangri-La.

After meeting British guitarist and improviser , Derek Bailey, at Tonic, the two perform duets and record for Incus Records two albums, Daedal and Bids.

In 2002 Ibarra forms Electric Kulintang and performs a quartet at the Concert of Colors, Detroit MI.

In 2004 Ibarra begins field recording Philippine Indigenous music.

In 2006 with Cuban American composer and percussionist Roberto Juan Rodriguez they created a duet for Electric Kulintang and record for Plastic Records, Dialects. Ibarra and Rodriguez co-found in 2009 Song of the Bird King LLC to help preserve Indigenous music, culture and ecology.

In 2008, she received an Asian Cultural Council Fellowship to research Indigenous and Folkloric music in the Philippines.

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.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9]

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).[10]

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.


2010 Ibarra is awarded a 2010 TED Fellowship[2] and Asia Society nominated her as a delegate of Asia 21 Young World Leaders Summit:“Unity Through Diversity” in Jakarta, 2010.

2010 Ibarra receives the New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship for Music Composition[3]

Ibarra is 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.

n 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.[11]

2011 Elecrtric Kulintang performs Drum Codes at Lincoln Center Atrium.

2012 Hidden Truths : Prayer for a Forgotten World, a 5.1 surround sound composition recorded with 7 Filipino Indigenous tribes , performed by Electric Kulintang with Roberto Rodriguez and visual art by Makoto Fujimura world premiere and co-commission for River to River Festival 2012 and Harvestworks Artist in Residency at St Pauls Chapel NY

2012 Ibarra composes Moon Over Still Waters of a Lost Road , an electro-acoustic music for Arabic ensemble in Bayyati with lyrics by Yusef Komunyakaa for a world premiere with Visiting Tarab Project with sound artist Tarek Atoui commissioned by the Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah Emirates.

2012 London Olympic Festival BT River of Music world premiere of Binalig Blues with Arun Ghosh Arkestra Makara, a Pan-Asian Orchestra.

2013 and 2014 Digital Sanctuaries, in collaboration with composer/percussionist Roberto Juan Rodriguez , interaction designer Shankari Murali and computer scientist Rommel Feria, a modular music app walk that remaps cities with sanctuaries of music most recently installed in NYC and Pittsburgh. Digital Sanctuaries was commissioned by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New Music USA, National Endowment for the Arts, Artplace America and The City of Asylum, Pittsburgh for New York City and Pittsburgh.

2014 The Cotabato Sessions , a digital music film and album in collaboration with filmmaker Joel Quizon and National Heritage artist Danongan Kalanduyan that captures one family legacy of gong-chime music in Mindanao, Philippines.

2013 The City a Radio Radiance commission for Young Peoples Chorus of NYC, with music by Ibarra and lyric by Yusef Komunyakaa

2012 -2013 Ibarra is commissioned as an artist in residence at RPI to compose Circadian Rhythms, commissioned for Earth Day 2013 at RPI EMPAC , Troy New York, inspired by endogenous rhythms for 80 percussionists and 8.1 surround sound of Macaulay Library recordings.

We Float, a 2014 commission by Ecstatic Music Festival a collaboration and ensemble with singer songwriter Mirah, which was a sonic retelling of space explorations.

2015 February, Ibarra performs a solo version of Circadian Rhythms with the field recordings of Macaulay Library , for The Exploratorium's 72 channel auditorium in San Francisco , California.

2015 , The National Museum of Wildlife Art commission Ibarra for a sound installation Mirrors and Water, to be set along the Sculpture trail for Ai WeiWei’s Circle of Animals , across the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Wyoming . July 1- October 11, 2015.

2015 July 12, Ibarra performs a new piece on new instrument, an hourglass harp, created by David Horwitz for a performance at The Whitney Museum hosted by Triple Canopy.


  • Digital Sanctuaries NYC app (2014)
  • Digital Sanctuaries Pittsburgh app (2014)


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