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Jason Kao Hwang

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Violinist/violist Jason Kao Hwang is involved in creative improvised contemporary music based on jazz, classical, and world music elements. He was born in New York City in 1957, not formally trained in traditional Asian music as an American born citizen of Chinese descent, but he has listened to it extensively. In the '70s he was part of the New York loft scene, a think tank for progressive innovators and improvisers. A member of the writer's wing of the Basement Workshop, an historic Asian-American arts conclave in New York City's Chinatown. Some of the musicians to spring from this collective were Gerald Oshita, Fred Houn, Miya Masaoka, Francis Wong, Jon Jang, and Mark Izu. Hwang was inspired by the creative improvisers of the day -- Henry Threadgill, Borah Bergman, Butch Morris, Reggie Workman, and Ken McIntyre. Hwang became known initially for fronting the Far East Side Band from 1990-2004, featuring Sang-Won Park, Joe Dailey, Satoshi Takeishi, and Yukio Tsuji, combining exotic instruments such as the taiko, kayagum, tuba, and his violin, issuing two CDs on the Victor and New World labels, and touring worldwide, including Beijing, China. He performed and co-arranged music for the original stage production of the Tony-award winning M Butterfly. Hwang also led a trio, documenting music for the Sound Aspects and Flying Panda labels. His scores were commissioned by the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, a composition "Flight of Whispers" was underwritten and performed as Music for Homemade Instruments for CRI Records on a compilation recording of Chinese-American composers, and he wrote the chamber opera The Floating Box: A Story in Chinatown. He has received numerous grants from Meet the Composer, the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council of the Arts, New Jersey State Council of the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Greenwall and Puffin Foundations, the American Music Center, and the Fund for U.S. Artists at International Festivals and Exhibitions. In his role as an educator, Hwang has taught at several grade levels including founding adult classes in Asian-American Music at New York University, and lecturing at Westminster and Brooklyn Colleges. High school students at the Museum of Chinese in the Americas benefited in his instruction of music, oral histories and poems from 2002 through 2005, and he conducted workshops with Young Audiences/New York for elementary school students and teachers in composition and improvised music. As an accompanist, Hwang has worked with Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, Ken McIntyre, Butch Morris, Reggie Workman, Vladimir Tarasov, Tatsu Aoki, William Parker, Sirone, William Hooker, and Pheeroan akLaff. His group EDGE is a collective ensemble featuring Andrew Drury, Taylor Ho Bynum, and Ken Filiano, and they have recorded for the Asian Improv and Innova labels. ~ Michael G. Nastos

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Years Active:

'80s, '90s, '00s