helen sung in dramatic lighting with hands together
  1. Faculty

Helen Sung

Roots, Jazz, and American Music | Jazz Piano

Three Tunes Helen Sung Quartet+ Three Tunes by Helen Sung Quartet+.

Helen Sung is an acclaimed pianist and composer, and a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient. A native of Houston, Texas, and graduate of its High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA), she eschewed her classical piano upbringing after a chance encounter with jazz during studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Helen went on to graduate from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance (now the Herbie Hancock Institute) at the New England Conservatory of Music and win the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Jazz Piano Competition.

Her latest release "Quartet+" (Sunnyside Records) is a 'double quartet' recording of music composed by women, performed by her quartet together with special guest Harlem Quartet. Helen and her band have appeared at major festivals and venues both nationally and abroad. She has worked with such luminaries as the late Clark Terry, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Wynton Marsalis, MacArthur Fellow Regina Carter, and Grammy-winning artists including Terri Lyne Carrington and Cecile McLorin Salvant. In addition to her own band, Helen can also currently be seen with such fine ensembles as the Mingus Big Band and McLorin Salvant’s "Ogresse" project. Helen is a Steinway Artist, and has served on the jazz faculties at Berklee College of Music, the Juilliard School, and Columbia University, where she also was the inaugural jazz artist-in-residence at the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute.

COURSES TAUGHT

  • Jazz Piano
  • Jazz Ensemble Coaching

EDUCATION

  • Performance Diploma, New England Conservatory's Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz
  • MM Piano Performance, University of Texas at Austin
  • BM Piano Performance, University of Texas at Austin

ENSEMBLES

  • Helen Sung Quartet+
  • Mingus Big Band
  • Cecile McLorin Salvant "Ogresse"

What is your hometown?

Born in Houston, TX; currently living in New York, NY

What is your favorite recording? Why?

I can't pick only one - two top favorites: Wayne Shorter's "Atlantis" and McCoy Tyner's "The Real McCoy." Both albums are masterpieces: the composing, arrangements, personnel, playing, the incredible musical world and vibe each one creates

What are you passionate about outside of music?

Caring for our world (recycling, living with a light footprint etc); Baking

What was the defining moment when you decided to pursue music as a career?

When I realized I would never get to the bottom of this thing called music

What was a turning point in your career?

Being accepted into the Monk Institute - it gave me the time, the incredible experience of studying directly with the Jazz Masters, and resources to give me a real shot at becoming an authentic jazz musician

If you weren't a musician or teacher, what do you think you would be doing now?

Maybe a pastry chef, or a parent

Please list your most important collaborations.

Playing in Clark Terry's last big band, and playing in his Quintet
Jazz and poetry project with poet Dana Gioia that resulted in our album "Sung With Words"
Producing a weeklong Jazz Residency program (made possible by a Chamber Music America residency grant) together with Urban Promise (school for underserved kids in Camden, NJ)

What recordings can we hear you on?

Quartet+ (Sunnyside Records)
Sung With Words (Stricker St Records)
Mosaic Project (Concord Records) by Terri Lyne Carrington
Anthem For A New Day (Concord Jazz)
Tenormore (Arbor Records) by Scott Robinson

Barbro Osher recital Hall

Happy Holidays from SFCM!

RJAM Faculty Helen Sung plays "Go Tell It on the Mountain"