Based in Honolulu, HI
“What I find most meaningful in my work is connecting with people. Interacting with the unique landscapes of Hawai‘i has given me the opportunity to connect with not just musicians, but scientists, educators, artists, dancers, and the local community in so many unexpected ways.”
Takuma Itoh’s music has been described as “brashly youthful and fresh” (New York Times), and has been featured amongst one of “100 Composers Under 40” on WQXR. In 2018, Itoh was instrumental in creating an innovative education program, Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds, which has since brought over 10,000 young students to hear new orchestral compositions alongside original animations that raise awareness of Hawai‘i’s many endangered bird species. Other recent highlights include a work for Invoke (string quartet with ‘ukulele doubling) American Postcards: Picture Brides (Hawaii 1908-1924) that used photographs collected by historian Barbara Kawakami to tell the story of the first Japanese women immigrants who came to Hawai‘i; Faded Aura for Hub New Music and shakuhachi player Kojiro Umezaki, which was performed around Japan on a tour with the Asia American New Music Institute; a collaboration with the American Wild Ensemble for their tour of Hawai‘i, including a performance at the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park; and a work for the Del Sol Quartet as part of The Joy Project intended to be performed outdoors where the audience can enjoy while social distancing.
In addition, he has been the recipient of the Barlow Endowment general commission, Music Alive: New Partnerships grant with the Tucson Symphony, the Chamber Music America Classical Commission, the ASCAP/CBDNA Frederick Fennell Prize, six ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, and the Leo Kaplan Award. Upcoming commissions include works for the Albany Symphony and the Hawai‘i Symphony.
Itoh is an Associate Professor of Music at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, where he has taught since 2012. He holds degrees from Cornell University, University of Michigan, and Rice University.
Vanished Voices: A Farewell to the ‘Ō‘ō (2018). For orchestra; performed by the Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra, Jeffrey Boeckman conductor; animated by Jeanine Higa and Kayla Abalos.
“This work is based on the last known recording of the Kaua‘i ‘Ō‘ō, calling out to its mate that no longer existed.”
Adaptation Variations (2019). Flute, clarinet, horn, percussion, violin, viola, cello; performed by American Wild Ensemble; film by Jorge Arzac.
“When talking about evolution, biologists often use the musical term ‘theme and variations’ as an analogy of how a single species can evolve to become a diverse array of species over time. With Adaptation Variations, I wanted to raise awareness of Hawai‘i’s incredible honeycreepers (forest birds) which performed this theme and variations over many millennia, evolving from one species that flew over to Hawai‘i to over 50 distinct species at one point–but now fewer than 20 still remain, many of which are critically endangered.”