Colburn Playlist: Alumna Sara Sithi-Amnuai on Women in Music

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Sara Sithi-Amnuai (Community School ’13) is a professional musician, composer, and creative technologist based in Los Angeles, California. She received her MFA in Performance & Composition at the California Institute of the Arts and a BA in Ethnomusicology (Jazz Trumpet) and a Music Industry minor from UCLA. Sithi-Amnuai’s recent work focuses on the intersection between identity, improvisation, and live performance interaction between the performer’s body and their instrument through gesture and sound. Her latest work is Nami, a custom-built glove interface designed for live musical performance utilizing gesture recognition tools and community research. Sithi-Amnuai is a member of the Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra, an artist-in-residence with Poieto, and a Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) and Sustainable Little Tokyo (SLT) Nikkei Music Reclamation Project Fellow. She is also a recipient of the 2019 ASCAP Foundation Johnny Mandel Prize and Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award, and the 2018 BMI Future Jazz Master Scholarship. You can read more about her work here.

In this playlist, Sara shares works from women that have inspired her.

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Chris Kando Iijima, Joanne Nobuko Miyamoto, “Charlie” Chin: “Yellow Pearl”


I’ve been very lucky to have met Nobuko this year through the Nikkei Music Reclamation Project which is a Sustainable Little Tokyo initiative in Downtown Los Angeles, Little Tokyo. She is an incredibly inspiring artist (music, theater, and dance) and powerful activist. One of the first works I heard of hers was A Grain of Sand: Music for the Struggle of Asians in America (1973) which is widely recognized as the first album of Asian American music. I was moved and inspired by her voice and the stories behind this album which is deeply rooted not only in the Asian American community but also in solidarity with African American and Latin American social movements. These stories really resonated with me as a Nikkei person and as an artist who has learned so much through the black and African American musical community. I’d highly encourage everyone to also check out and support her multicultural arts organization, Great Leap.

Drawing the Line – Nobuko Miyamoto (Interview)

Pamela Z: 11/19/17 Solo Voice & Electronics


Pamela Z is a brilliant performer-composer and media artist who often works with voice, live electronic processing, sampled sound and video. Her work with N Degrees (fabricated by Donald Swearingen) inspired me to think more deeply about the relationship between sound and gesture, and how musical interfaces can encourage the exploration of this relationship.

Mary Lou Williams: “Cancer”


Mary Lou Williams is a legendary jazz pianist, composer and arranger. She is one of the greats in jazz history who has written and arranged for Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, and was a friend and mentor for many others like Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis. Her sense of harmony is one of my favorites and her Zodiac Suite album is a masterpiece. She still does not get enough recognition for her contributions to the jazz world and for also paving the way for women in jazz.

Sarah Belle Reid: “Sonder V”


Sarah Reid is an amazing performer-composer who I feel lucky to also call a dear friend and mentor. Her work with MIGSI (Minimally Invasive Gesture Sensing Interface) encouraged and inspired me to venture into the world of augmented instruments and electronics. I’m constantly excited by the work she puts out both as an artist and teacher, and her dedication to cultivating artist communities.

Underneath and Sonder (Behind the Scenes) – Sarah Belle Reid (Interview)

Sara Serpa, David Virelles, Mark Turner, Zeena Parkins: “Queen Nzinga”


One of the first albums I heard from Sara Serpa was Primavera (Sara Serpa & André Matos) and I was moved by how beautiful both the compositions and her voice were. She has such a unique voice that I can recognize anywhere and she makes everything sound effortless and intentional. I was lucky enough to have met her at the Banff Workshop in Jazz & Creative Music in 2016 and have followed her musical journey since. What I really appreciate about Sara’s music is how personal it is, and how her work often transcends boundaries and draws from a variety of influences outside of music. Sara Serpa and Jen Shyu (also another awesome artist!) co-founded M³ (Mutual Mentorship for Musicians – building new paradigms of mentorship), which I highly encourage everyone to check out and support!

Sara Serpa Interview about Recognition

Go back to see more Colburn Playlists.