Pianist/composer Helen Sung hails from Houston, Texas, where she attended the High School for the Performing & Visual Arts (HSPVA). An aspiring classical pianist before jazz intervened during undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin, Sung went on to graduate from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance (at the New England Conservatory) and win the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Jazz Piano Competition. Now based in New York City, Sung has worked with such luminaries as the late Clark Terry, Ron Carter, Victor Lewis, Steve Turre, Wayne Shorter, Wynton Marsalis (who named her one of his “Who’s Got Next: Jazz Musicians to Watch!”), and MacArthur Fellow Regina Carter.
Sung’s sixth release as leader, Anthem for a New Day (Concord Jazz), topped jazz radio charts and garnered a SESAC Performance Activity Award. With appearances at major festivals/venues including Newport, Monterey, Detroit, SFJAZZ, and Carnegie Hall, Sung is also stepping onto the international stage: her NuGenerations Project toured southern Africa as a U.S. State Department Jazz Ambassador, and recent engagements include European tours promoting Anthem for a New Day, the London Jazz Festival, and Taiwan’s Taichung Jazz Festival. In addition to her own band, Sung can currently be seen with such fine ensembles as the Mingus Big Band and Terri Lyne Carrington’s Mosaic Project (she also performed on Carrington’s Grammy-winning album, Mosaic Project).
An active, commissioned composer, Sung won a 2014 Chamber Music America/Doris Duke Foundation "New Jazz Works” Grant, enabling her to create and premiere Sung With Words, a “music-inspiring-poetry-inspiring-music” collaboration with Dana Gioia, California’s current Poet Laureate and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Inspired by her experience at the Monk Institute, Sung stays involved in music education through residencies and workshops/clinics, and also serves on the jazz faculties at The Juilliard School and Columbia University. In 2017, the College of Fine Arts of the University of Texas awarded Sung its most prestigious honor – the E. William Doty Distinguished Alumna Award – and HSPVA inducted her into its Jazz Hall of Fame.