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Composition by music major has universal appeal

Cal State L.A. student wins international contest, gets big gig in Hollywood

Pictured: Alan Ishii.

Alan Ishii’s piano composition, “Scorpio – SAGITTARIUS,” recently premiered in China and will eventually be performed globally. A music major at Cal State L.A., Ishii won an international composition contest hosted by the critically-acclaimed Zodiac Trio, entitled “Zodiac: Across the Universe.”

The contest featured 12 winners, each contributing a movement to the piece and complementing each of the zodiac signs, and the work was toured across 10 cities in China.

“Frankly, amongst composers from around the globe, of various credentials and at seemingly every level of education, I was happy to represent East Los Angeles and Cal State L.A.,” said Ishii, whose score was among 12 selected out of 100 submissions worldwide.

Zodiac Trio has achieved a level of recognition on the international chamber music stage, rarely bestowed upon an ensemble of such untraditional instrumentation. Amongst its many engagements over the past six years, the Zodiac Trio has performed at such leading venues as Ottawa Chamberfest, the Oriental Performing Arts Center in Shanghai, National Performing Arts Center in Beijing, Izumi Hall in Japan, Lincoln Center’s Bruno Walter Auditorium, and Merkin Concert Hall in New York.

According to Castle Rock Press, the Zodiac Trio has “uncompromising musicianship… breathtaking precision and dimension…Nuances of phrasing that place the Trio among the world’s finest chamber ensembles.”

Ishii’s passion for music started when he received a keyboard for Christmas at 13 years old. From that day forward, he would spend hours playing songs and creating his own piano masterpiece. He grew up listening to country music and eventually branched out to jazz, classical and pop music.

Pictured: Alan Ishii.

Once he finished high school, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in music. He attended Pasadena City College before transferring to Cal State L.A.’s commercial music technology program.

“I chose this program at Cal State L.A. because it is versatile enough to prepare me for the job market,” said Ishii. “In this day and age, a musician needs to know how to compose, perform, play an instrument, and arrange songs in a recording studio.”

At Cal State L.A., Ishii was also a member of the Commercial Music Ensemble, performing as the band pianist and occasionally singing vocal pieces.

“I was really inspired to work with Professor Ross Levinson who directs the ensemble,” said Ishii. “He has an impressive repertoire, and is a great guiding force.”

The University’s Commercial Music Ensemble is comprised of instrumentalists and vocalists and performs both covers of current hits and original works by Cal State L.A. students and faculty.

In July, Ishii performed one of his piano compositions at the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, Minnesota. Also, he recently sat in an open jam at one of the oldest jazz clubs in Buffalo, New York, called the Colored Musician Club.

Upon graduating from Cal State L.A., he plans to continue to work on his compositions and to perform solo piano and vocal performances.

“I am excited to share that I just got a gig at the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood as part of the Young Artist Jazz Series in November,” said Ishii. “And, I am also working on a composition to be submitted for performance at the Symphony in Seattle.”

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Last Update: 01/22/2014