Department of Music

Tonight's Program

Reaction (Axis III) by Tonia Ko 高子詠 

khôra-khôra by Gabriel José Bolaños


Duo for Flute and Piano by Aaron Copland

I. Flowing
II. Poetic, somewhat mournful
III. Lively, with bounce


Axis Mundi by Anthony Cheung

(World premiere)

Fanmi Imèn by Valerie Coleman

About the Artists

Duo Axis is comprised of Zach Sheets, flute, and Wei-Han Wu, piano. Sought after for recitals and residencies across the US, Duo Axis has been featured by a wide range of presenters, including: University of California Davis, University of Chicago, Brown University (Providence, RI), Qubit (NYC) the Knutson Masters Series (Sioux Falls, SD), EQ Concerts (Boston, MA), Æpex Contemporary Performance (Ann Arbor, MI), Houston Flute Club (Houston, TX), Cape Symphony Chamber Series (Cape Cod, MA), Valencia International Performance Academy (Spain), Creative Arts Initiative (Buffalo, NY), University at Buffalo, Buffalo Strings Works, and more. This year, Duo Axis launch Duo@50, a landmark commissioning project celebrating the 50th anniversary of Copland's Duo for Flute and Piano with four new commissioned works by Anthony Cheung, Carolina Heredia, Christine Burke, and Matthew Ricketts. Duo Axis projects are generously support by the Ditson Fund, Copland Fund, Koussevitzky Foundation, Barlow Endowment, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and more. 

Described as "brilliant" by the Pittsburgh Tribune, pianist Wei-Han Wu has performed in such venues as the Chicago Cultural Center, the Kennedy Center, and Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall. He has been a featured performer at the Tanglewood, Aspen, Castleton, Lake George, and Walla Walla Chamber Music Festivals. Dedicated to the performance and promotion of new music, Mr. Wu is currently pianist for the [Switch~ Ensemble]. He previously served as pianist for the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, and the president of OSSIA New Music. A member of Pi Kappa Lambda, he is the recipient of a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Juilliard School, the Felicia Montealegre Fellowship from the Tanglewood Music Center, and the Collaborative Piano Fellowship from Bard College. Mr. Wu holds degrees from Northwestern, University of Michigan, and a double DMA degree in Piano Performance and Collaborative Piano from the Eastman School of Music. Currently a freelance pianist in Washington DC, Mr. Wu is on faculty at Shenandoah University and has collaborated with artists from the National Symphony, Washington National Opera, and more.

Zach Sheets enjoys a multifaceted life as a chamber musician, composer, orchestral flutist, and arts administrator. He has performed as Principal Flute with the Boston Ballet, Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra, and the Portland, Albany, and Cape Cod Symphonies. Solo appearances include recitals presented by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston; New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall; the Spoleto Festival’s Music in Time Series; a performance of Tour Takemitsu’s Flute & Harp concerto with the Cape Cod Chamber Orchestra; and more. Festival engagements include Royaumont (FR), SinusTon (GER), Aldeburgh Festival (UK), Britten-Pears (UK), and Klangspuren Schwaz (AUS). Also an administrator and dedicated educator, Sheets is the Senior Director of Major & Institutional Gifts for Community Music Center of Boston, the largest outside provider of music education to the Boston Public Schools. He has spoken about arts policy and funding partnerships state-wide and nationally, including before the Massachusetts Legislature and Mass Cultural Council; at the Chamber Music America National Conference; and the National Guild for Community Arts Education. He holds degrees from Harvard University and the Eastman School of Music.

No matter how traditional or experimental the medium, Tonia Ko’s music reveals a core that is whimsical, questioning, and lyrical. She has collaborated with leading soloists and ensembles across a variety of media—from acoustic concert pieces to improvisations and sound installations.  Recipient of numerous accolades including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Koussevitzky Commission, Ko’s music has been lauded by The New York Times for its “captivating” details and “vivid orchestral palette.” Born in Hong Kong and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, She earned a DMA from Cornell University. Ko previously served as Composer-in-Residence of Young Concert Artists and Postdoctoral Researcher at University of Chicago’s Center for Contemporary Composition. She was appointed Lecturer in Composition at Royal Holloway, University of London in 2020.

Gabriel José Bolaños Chamorro (b. 1984 Bogotá, Colombia) is a Nicaraguan-American composer of solo, chamber, orchestral and electroacoustic music. He frequently collaborates closely with performers, and enjoys writing music that explores unusual structures and timbres. He is interested in computer-assisted-composition, auditory perception, linguistics, graphic notation and modular synthesizers. Bolaños is currently an Assistant Professor of Music Composition at Arizona State University, where he teaches courses in composition, analysis, music technology and acoustics, and serves as co-director of the PRISMS contemporary music festival. He received a BA in music from Columbia University and a PhD in Composition and Theory from UC Davis.  Bolaños has received numerous awards and grants for his work, including a Fulbright US Scholar Grant, a research and development grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and a commission from CIRM and Festival Manca in Nice, France. 

Aaron Copland is an American composer whose life (1900-1990) spans almost the complete 20th century, and is often considered among the best-known 20th century composers of Western Classical Music. In his youth, Copland went to France to study with famed pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, receiving instruction in harmony, counterpoint, and orchestration, and getting to know composers like Igor Stravinsky and Francis Poulenc. Copland garnered acclaim upon his return to the US during the Great Depression in the 1930’s, among a group of artists at the time who explored folk traditions and a more vernacular style—a relatively unusual practice within classical music institutions of the time. He saw particular success with three ballet collaborations with trailblazing dancer/choreographer Martha Graham: Billy the Kid, Rodeo, and Appalachian Spring—the latter of which is based on the Shaker Tune Simple Gifts. Copland rose to even greater prominence within the orchestral world thanks to these successes, as well as advocacy from two of the most famed conductors of the day: Leonard Bernstein and Serge Koussevitzky. (–Zach Sheets) 

Composer/pianist Anthony Cheung writes music that explores the senses, a wide palette of instrumental play and affect, improvisational traditions, reimagined musical artifacts, and multiple layers of textual meaning. His music has been commissioned and performed by leading groups such as Ensemble Modern, Ensemble InterContemporain, New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Musikfabrik, Scharoun Ensemble, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and many others. Honors include a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship and 2012 Rome Prize. He studied at Harvard and Columbia and has taught at the University of Chicago and Brown University, where he is currently Associate Professor of Music. He is currently at work on a large-scale song cycle, “the echoing of tenses,” featuring texts by seven Asian-American poets, which will premiere at the Ojai Festival this summer.

Valerie Coleman is regarded by many as an iconic artist who continues to pave her own unique path as a composer, GRAMMY®-nominated flutist, and entrepreneur. Coleman commenced her 2021/22 season with the world premiere of her latest work, Fanfare for Uncommon Times, at the Caramoor Festival with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. In October 2021, Carnegie Hall presented her work Seven O'Clock Shout, commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra. Coleman has been named to the Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Theater New Works dual commissioning program in 2021/22. Recent performances and commissions of her works include by the Minnesota Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, The Library of Congress, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, New York Philharmonic, and the Boston, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Toronto Symphony Orchestras, as well as significant chamber ensembles and collegiate bands across the country. Former flutist of the Imani Winds, Coleman is the creator and founder of this acclaimed ensemble whose 24-year legacy is documented and featured in a dedicated exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. (excerpt from

About the Works

Reaction (Axis III) by Tonia Ko 高子詠 

Reaction (Axis III) is the third piece in the ‘Axis’ series, which explores the rhythmic and physical axis of breath. Gestures that are inherent to musical performance, such as cueing and expressive leaning and bending, are foregrounded as choreography and formal structure. Yet, instead of relying on visual cues, the two performers must use the sensation of touch (through their backs) as the main tool for telling rhythm/tempo/ time. This act of synchronized breathing creates a new axis of sound production that comes from collective effort. —Tonia Ko

Khôra-khôra by Gabriel José Bolaños

Khôra-khôra was commissioned by Zach Sheets and Wei-Han Wu in 2016. While writing this piece, I became interested in Plato’s concept of the khôra: an immense, shapeless space that lies between the intelligible and sensible worlds. I began to think of time as khôra – an enigmatic abyss, an eternal receptacle, that is empty while also containing paradigms of all things. These thoughts helped re-shape and inform my creative process in various abstract ways while composing this piece. This piece is warmly dedicated to Zach and Wei-Han. —Gabriel Bolaños

Duo for Flute and Piano by Aaron Copeland

Copland’s Duo for Flute and Piano is one of the first major American works for flute and piano—and to date one of the most significant in the repertoire. While many such works present the piano as “accompaniment” and the instrument as the “soloist”, Copland’s Duo places the two instruments on equal footing—an approach that resonates with us and our own artistic practice. The first movement begins with a tranquil flute solo, reminiscent of folk song or lullaby. As the piano joins, the music settles into a gentle three-pattern, like a waltz. The character evolves throughout the movement, at times suave, at times goofy. The movement ends nearly as it began: gentle, calm, resonant. The second movement begins and ends with a plaintive flute melody, ascending and descending in little curls of phrase, while the piano rings soft chords like little bells. Marked “mournful”, the music is introspective and quiet—almost threadbare. This kind of lyricism is a challenge for sustaining the musical line: the music must at once float but also carry weight and melancholy, like a balloon rising through air that is too heavy.  The third movement interrupts the end of the second, with a chipper, jubilant beginning. After a minute or so, Copland makes an unusual maneuver: the bottom falls out of the sound, and the flutist and pianist trade pointillistic jabs. The music finds its more rambunctious footing in time for the finale, ending with a rich and sonorous romp. —Zach Sheets

Axis mundi by Anthony Cheung (World Premiere)

Axis mundi refers to the point of cosmic contact between Heaven and Earth, a literal or figurative center of the world that connects the celestial with the earthly. It can be symbolized in innumerable ways, from trees, ziggurats, and mountain ranges (real or imagined), to columns and pagodas. My use here of course pays homage to the name of Duo Axis, but also thinks about how the flute and piano might metaphorically serve as conduit and conjuror between worlds. Flutes are the oldest instruments in the world, dating back at least 50000 years, and in many early civilizations were constructed from animal bones for use in religious ceremonies and spiritual worship, serving as an axis mundi through sound. They continue to project an image of mythological purpose and power. The writing in this piece frequently aligns both instruments, with the flute extending the vibrations of the piano, or breathing new life into decaying or denatured resonances. They often intersect as a single unit or sound source, revealing a shadow or a trace, and then as complementary forces that orbit around one another through independent cycles. —Anthony Cheung

Fanmi Imèn by Valerie Coleman

The title of Coleman's tone poem Fanmi Imèn is Haitian Creole for Maya Angelou's famous work, Human Family. Both the musical and literary poems acknowledge differences within mankind, either due to ethnicity, background, or geography, but Angelou's poetic refrain: 'we are more alike, my friends, than we are unlike,' reaffirms our humanity as a reminder of unity.