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This project was successfully funded on January 11, 2014

For Malala- A Jazz Concerto For Piano Trio and Symphony Orchestra

by Sumi Tonooka


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"Pens and books are the weapons that defeat terrorism. I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through educating not only our minds, but our hearts and our souls." Malala Yousafzai

I want to share a new project with you that I am very excited about. The title is "For Malala, a Jazz Concerto for Trio and Symphony Orchestra." It is inspired by and dedicated to, the young Pakistani student activist, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head for her advocacy of educating girls and all children in her home country. Her story has moved me to action by composing a special musical work as a form of musical advocacy. The new work will be premiered and recorded during the 2014-2015 season by the NorthWest Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor Anthony Spain, and I will be the piano soloist.

This year, I completed my first symphonic work, “Full Circle,” which was performed in June by the American Composers Orchestra in New York City*. In composing “For Malala,” my goal is to use the wisdom I gained from this experience and keep the momentum moving forward by delving into even deeper compositional territory. I am committed to being an active participant in the creation of new music for the orchestral and jazz community that will explore my experience as a jazz pianist and composer in new ways.

I am currently in the early stages of developing “For Malala,” and exploring how to turn my passion for her cause into music. I am researching the lives and stories of women freedom fighters from this part of the world, some of whom were murdered, raped or otherwise silenced in their fight for freedom of education and women's rights. I would like to bring more attention to this story by fusing Pakistani musical elements and my own jazz and classical influences, showing that the borders between all of us (men/women, Christian/Muslim, Orient/Occident) are not so far apart. Most of all, I hope that “For Malala” will inspire people to believe that they can stand up for change, and to know that our creative expression, our voices, and our lives can make a difference.

“For Malala” will combine aspects of Pakistani cultural expression with jazz improvisation for the trio and through-composed music for the orchestra. My musical research so far has included the study and exploration of rhythms, melodies, children’s songs, modes and various percussion instruments from Pakistan and surrounding areas. I will also draw upon text, poetry and photography from the region to help inform my ideas and deepen my understanding of Malala’s courage and convictions. The concerto form plays to my strengths as a pianist composer and allows me to explore many dramatic possibilities.

Northwest Symphony Orchestra has committed to premiere and record "For Malala" but is unable to provide a commission. I estimate that "For Malala" will take between 12 to 18 months to complete. I am asking for $12,000 for the creation time needed to compose the work, funds for the purchase of compositional software, copyist fee's and video production. Additional funds will also go towards rehearsal for the trio, and performance fees for drummer and bassist, postage and printing costs.

I want to thank you for your ongoing and generous support for creative ventures that strengthen the human spirit . I also want to thank Hatchfund for helping to fund “For Malala.”

*Recorded live at American Composers Orchestra’s 2013 Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute New Music Readings. Please visit:

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