Kaoru Watanabe, composer, and Japanese flutes, and percussion musician, will discuss his artistic process, his instruments, and Japanese traditional performing arts and perform selections of his work.
Composer and musician Kaoru Watanabe grounds his work in traditional Japanese music while exploring a startling array of musical worlds. He has collaborated with MacArthur "genius" Jason Moran, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, mulit-media artist Laurie Anderson, guitarist Vernon Reid, flamenco dancer Eva Yerbabuena, visual artists Simone Leigh and Alyson Shotz, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, calligrapher Koji Kakinuma, Japanese National Living Treasure Bando Tamasaburo, vocalists Alicia Hall Moran and Imani Uzuri, pipa virtuoso Wu Man, and such ensembles as Silkroad, So Percussion, Reigakusha, Brooklyn Raga Massive, the Aizuri and Parker String Quartets among many others. He is currently working on a project with dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov.
In 2018, Watanabe debuted as an orchestral soloist and composer with the Sydney Symphony at the Sydney Opera House. He is an advisor, composer, and featured musician on the Oscar-nominated score of Wes Anderson’s film Isle of Dogs, and was a guest artist on the Silkroad's Grammy Award-winning album Sing Me Home.
Born to Japanese parents who were both members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Watanabe started playing Western Classical music at an early age. He graduated from the Manhattan School of Music as a jazz flautist and saxophonist, and spent a decade in Japan performing with and eventually directing the internationally acclaimed taiko ensemble Kodo. As a specialist on transverse bamboo flutes such as the shinobue, noh kan, and ryuteki, and on various Japanese percussion instruments, Watanabe returned to New York City to continue developing his musical voice. Watanabe has performed his compositions at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Boston Symphony Hall, The Kennedy Center, and Kabukiza, and he continues to perform regularly across North, Central, and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. A passionate educator, Watanabe has taught courses at institutions such as Princeton University, Wesleyan University, and the Tanglewood Music Festival.