Hailed in the press as a "keyboard virtuoso" (Georgia Straight) with the “emotional intensity” to take a piece “from notes on a page to a stunning work of art” (Victoria Times Colonist), pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa has performed as soloist and chamber musician in Canada, the United States and Germany. Known for bold and innovative concerts, Rachel combines her warmth and curiosity to touch the hearts and minds of audiences, whether she is playing Beethoven and Schumann or Ligeti and Saariaho.
Rachel has appeared for Vancouver New Music, CONTACT contemporary music (Toronto), New Works Calgary, Groundswell New Music (Winnipeg), the Victoria Symphony, the Aventa Ensemble (Victoria), Music on Main, Redshift, the Western Front, the Little Chamber Music Series That Could, Vancouver Pro Musica and has been broadcast on CBC Radio. Rachel has a shameless passion for contemporary music, and has performed numerous premières, including pieces written especially for her by Rodney Sharman, Jeffrey Ryan, Jocelyn Morlock, Emily Doolittle, Alexander Pechenyuk, and many other Canadian composers. Most recently, Rachel presented Cosmophony, a solo piano recital of music inspired by the cosmos at the HR MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver, accompanied by overhead panoramic projections of images of the planets and stars. This site-specific concert, which featured the premieres of no less than nine commissioned works by Canadian composers, was subsequently praised by the Vancouver Sun as a “brilliant” and “unforgettable” event. A CD recording of Cosmophony will be released on the Redshift label in the Spring of 2010. Other highlights of the 09-10 season include performances of Cosmophony for Music TORONTO and Cornish College in Seattle, and the premiere of a commissioned solo piano piece by Marci Rabe for Vancouver New Music.
Rachel performs regularly with Mark McGregor as the flute and piano duo Tiresias. Theirdebut CD, Delicate Fires, was nominated for a 2008 Western Canadian Music Award in the category of Outstanding Classical Recording. Delicate Fires was produced with the generous assistance of the Barbara Pentland fund, and features the first commercially released recordings of her Sonata Fantasy for solo piano and Trance for flute and piano. It also presents the premiere recordings of works commissioned by Tiresias from Canadian composers Rodney Sharman, Jennifer Butler, and Jocelyn Morlock. Later in 2009, Tiresias will release a second all-Canadian CD, Trade Winds, similarly pairing the music of established composer Jean Coulthard with lesser-known and emerging composers Paul Douglas and Christopher Kovarik.
Rachel’s major teachers include Jane Coop, Menahem Pressler, and Robin Wood. She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of British Columbia, a Master of Music from Indiana University, and a Bachelor of Music from the University of Victoria, where she earned the Victoria Medal as the top graduating student in Fine Arts. She was also a two-time recipient of the prestigious Annual Grant from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) for graduate studies at the Hochschule für Musik "Hanns Eisler" Berlin. Other awards include grants from the Canada Council, the BC Arts Council, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the Alberta Heritage Foundation. Rachel is currently on the faculty at UBC, the Richmond Music School and the Salina Cheng Music Academy. She is also currently editing new scholarly editions of Jean Coulthard’s late solo piano works for Avondale Press.