Kay Rhie (이규림) is a composer of contemporary classical music which often explores the issues of belonging and the science of acoustics. Born in South Korea, she grew up in Los Angeles and trained in both the West and the East Coast. Her immigrant experience since her teenage years has given her an artistic base as a hybridizer. She accesses a wide-ranging palette of inspiration from classical, film, European avant-gardes music as well as various literary and artistic traditions. In her choral work Tears for Te Wano, a 19th-century Maori chant and a 16th-century Renaissance motet are fused together while highlighting each distinct chant tradition. Her solo piano work Arirang uses a Korean folk tune as a descant, shrouds it in blues-infused harmony. 

Rhie’s music in which “vehemence and reticence, intimacy and plainness co-exist” (American Academy of Arts and Letter) has found an increasing audience. Past highlights include performances by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, the BBC Singers, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, the Moscow Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, TM+, Ensemble X, Winsor Music, In Mulieribus, a commission by pianist Gloria Cheng, violinist Andrew Jennings among others. 

Her current projects include a chamber opera Quake, a commission by Opera UCLA. A comedic reimagination of the ending of Odyssey, the opera asks two questions: what homecoming means for modern people and how one might break from fate. Featuring four soloists, four-member Greek Chorus and chamber orchestra, this 60-minute chamber opera is scheduled to open in 2022 by Opera UCLA in Los Angeles. 

Another upcoming project is a commission from the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra: Five Petals is about displacement from home and a desire to belong. Using the text from Theresa Hak Kyoung Cha’s ground-breaking Dictee, three Korean poets from the colonial period, and finally a modern Korean poet Hye-Soon Kim, Five Petals depicts a struggle to ground one’s identity in a land that was not their own. This performance has been rescheduled for the 2021-22 season in Walt Disney Concert Hall.

A recipient of the Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Rhie was the Music Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study at Harvard University. Rhie has enjoyed honors and residencies from the Ojai Music Festival, London Festival of American Music, the Tanglewood Music Center (Otto Eckstein Composition Fellow) where she was the winner of the Geffen-Solomon New Music Commission, Seal Bay Chamber Music Festival, Aspen Music Festival, and School, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and the Chamber Music Conference and Composers’ Forum of the East among others.

She began playing the piano at age seven in South Korea and continued her musical studies in Los Angeles. After she studied piano performance and composition at the University of California at Los Angeles, she received her Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in composition at Cornell University. Her composition teachers include Steven Stucky, Roberto Sierra, Paul Chihara, Ian Krouse, David Lefkowitz, John Harbison, Samuel Adler, Stephen Hartke, and Colin Matthews. She studied piano performance with Xak Bjerken, Malcolm Bilson, and Ick-Choo Moon.

Rhie currently teaches composition and theory at UCLA as Assistant Professor of Music at UCLA. 

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