Loyola University Chicago


Department of Fine and Performing Arts


Kaoru Watanabe Named Spring 2023 Artist-In-Residence in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts Music Program at Loyola University Chicago

Kaoru Watanabe Named Spring 2023 Artist-In-Residence in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts Music Program at Loyola University Chicago

“I think most creative musicians allow their experiences to shape their music, especially when composing. I’m very aware of the political and cultural connotations of my performance. I try to avoid clichés or stereotypes when presenting, for example, Japanese music. I wanted to incorporate traditional musical melodies and rhythms much like jazz musicians who have historically borrowed from pop and Broadway to create sublime works of art. Ultimately, I want to make statements on things that are important to me.” 

—Kaoru Watanabe. 


The Department of Fine and Performing Arts Music Program at Loyola University Chicago is pleased to announce Kaoru Watanabe as its Spring 2023 Artist-in-Residence.

During his residence, New York-based musician and North America’s leading practitioner of the shinobue (Japanese transverse flute), Kaoru Watanabe will engage with music students and faculty through teaching, working with the Percussion and Wind Ensembles, and will present a public recital in the Skowronski Music Hall on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus. 

Acclaimed composer and instrumentalist Kaoru Watanabe’s melodic, authentic, and engaging music focuses on points of connection: the joints between Western jazz and Eastern traditional, Japanese theater and political action, the ancient and the all-too-contemporary. Born to Japanese parents who were both members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Watanabe started playing Western classical music at an early age, then graduated from the Manhattan School of Music as a jazz flutist and saxophonist. He then devoted a decade overseas to living and performing with, and ultimately leading, the world-renowned taiko drum performance group KODO.

Watanabe returned to New York City to continue developing his ever-evolving musical voice, specializing on transverse bamboo flutes such as the shinobue, noh kan, and ryuteki, along with various Japanese percussion instruments. Ten years in Japan deeply influenced Watanabe’s practice, and his signature skill of infusing Japanese culture into disparate styles has made him a much in-demand collaborator. Watanabe’s impressive list of creative work across different media reflects his ever-curious ear and wandering eye. He advised and contributed to film director Wes Anderson’s Oscar-nominated score for Isle of Dogs; tours regularly with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad; has supported numerous dance companies and movement artists, including Mikhail Baryshnikov; and has composed with and performed alongside Laurie Anderson, Jason and Alicia Hall Moran, Vernon Reid, Rhiannon Giddens, and Zakir Hussain, among many others. Watanabe has performed his compositions at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Boston Symphony Hall, The Kennedy Center, and Kabukiza, and in all 47 prefectures in Japan. Watanabe continues to perform regularly across the North, Central, and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. 

As a passionate educator, Watanabe has taught at such prestigious institutions as Princeton University and Wesleyan University, as well as the Tanglewood Music Festival. As a composer, Watanabe writes for various, often unconventional instrumentations, utilizing a wide variety of techniques. Thematically, he regularly explores issues of social justice, history, and heritage. Watanabe’s newest pandemic-era creation, INCENSE, uses live-recorded sample loops of flute, drums, and vocals, providing him the technical means to perform ensemble compositions as a solo artist. 

Watanabe’s recital will be held on Tuesday, February 14 at 7:00pm in the Skowronski Music Hall on the Loyola University Chicago Lake Shore Campus. This special program is open to the Loyola community and general public. Visit our ticketing website for details.