It is likely that Lake Oswego residents Kenji Bunch and Monica Ohuchi interact more in a typical day than most couples.
That's because the husband-and-wife team work together in support of Fear No Music, the Portland-based nonprofit organization which promotes music education through performances of modern and contemporary classical music. Bunch is FNM's artistic director and Ohuchi serves as the ensemble's executive director. They also both perform with the ensemble, teach music lessons, Bunch composes music and they have a household and young family to manage.
"Our work relationship does have an extra layer or two," said Ohuchi. She says the family, which includes two young children and a dog, is "highly collaborative" and they try not to blur the lines too much. "But every now and again there are those 2 a.m. conversations about work," she said.
The couple met while studying music at the Julliard School in New York City.
"I was studying viola and composition and Monica was studying piano," said Bunch. To say they are musically talented is a powerful understatement.
Ohuchi began studying piano at age two with her mother, and captured first prize at the Chinese International Piano Competition at the age of five. Since then she has been awarded top prizes in more than 20 national and international piano competitions, including the 2006 William Garrison International Piano Competition, the Wayne Nadeau International Piano Competition and the Dorthy A. Anderson International Piano Competition. She is a two-time U.S. national champion of the Music Teacher's National Association Piano Competition and a four-time grand prize winner of the WIAA Washington State Piano Competition. She was also named a New York Steinway Hall Recital Award Recipient, as well as the Artist International Presentations Inc. Award Recipient. She maintains an active international career as a soloist, chamber musician and much sought after piano pedagogue. She is on the faculty of Reed College and previously taught at Julliard School and Music in Chappaque in New York. Her students have been top prize winners in competitions, too.
Bunch's resume is equally impressive. His musical compositions have been performed by more than 60 American orchestras, by chamber musicians on six continents, and have been recorded numerous times. Most recently his work was commissioned and premiered by the Seattle Symphony, the Oregon Symphony, the Lark Quartet, the Britt Festival, Music From Angel Fire, Chamber Music Northwest, the Eugene Ballet, Third Angle New Music, the Grant Park Music Festival, and 45th Parallel, with whom he serves as Composer in Residence. All-Bunch concerts have been heard in Brooklyn, Boston, Denver, Nashville, Mobile, Alabama, and Portland as well as at the Perpignon Conservatoire in France, the Stamford Festival in England and The Oranjewoud Festival in The Netherlands.
His music has been used in several films, and he has collaborated extensively with the dance world working with renowned choreographers Toni Pimble, David Parsons, Nai-Ni Chen, Kate Skarpetowska, Paul Vasterling and Darrell Grand Moultrie.
He also teaches viola, composition and music theory at Portland State University, Reed College and for the Portland Youth Philharmonic.
After graduating from Juillard the couple continued to live in New York, where in 1999, Bunch was commissioned by FNM to write a piece for the ensemble. Bunch brought the group out to the city to perform.
Bunch was originally from Portland and after 22 memorable years in New York (15 for Ohuchi) they determined it was time to move back to Portland.
"We moved from New York to Portland in 2013 after the birth of our daughter to be closer to family," Ohuchi said. "When we moved here, we did not know that we would be involved with FNM, all of that fell into place after we relocated. Once we moved here, we were approached about taking over the directorship of the group by the artistic director at the time, violinist Paloma Griffin Hebert."
Founded by percussionist and Portland State University music professor Joel Bluestone and pianist Jeff Payne in the early 1990s, FNM is a group of dedicated musicians with a passion for performing the chamber music of our time, music composed in the 20th and 21st centuries.
"It began as a labor of love to share the music of living composers," Bunch said. "Think about what people fear most in music, they think about men in powdered wigs. We present the music of people who are marginalized — women, people of color, global communities — to be a driving force to amplify their voices."
Knowing the scope of responsibilities involved, Bunch said he would take on the artistic directorship if FNM would also hire Ohuchi as executive director. FNM agreed and the organization has thrived under the arrangement.
"I have these lofty ideas and Monica makes the ideas work," he said. "And she has been great for the organization as executive director. She has doubled the operating budget and doubled the funding."
"It's been a joint effort, " Ohuchi said. "We are trying to serve the community."
FNM offers an annual concert series focused on fostering a love for live ensemble music and celebrating the diversity of Portland's music community. There is one concert left in this season's Worldwide Welcome series, "Japanarama: The Ongoing Influence of Japanese Culture" taking place at 7:30 p.m. May 6 in the Old Church, 1422 S.W. 11th Ave. in Portland.
FNM also offers the Young Composers Program, which provides training and mentorship in music composition for youth interested in exploring composing as a professional career or life passion. FNM founded the Young Composers Program to find and enable young musicians to experience being a composer for the first time, and to cultivate the next generation of composers. YCP students have won numerous state, regional and national honors for their works, and are now pursuing careers with national and international profiles as orchestral, theater, film and television composers.
It is evident that Bunch and Ohuchi are a highly collaborative couple, and it is highly likely that surrounding themselves with music enhances their success.
Learn more about Bunch on-
line at kenjibunch.net and about Ohuchi online at monicaohuchi.com.
If you go
¦ "Japanarama: The Ongoing Influence of Japanese Culture" will be presented at 7:30 p.m. May 6 at the Old Church, 1422 S.W. 11th Ave., Portland.
Japan has long provided an outsized influence on Western culture. In this special collaboration with Portland Taiko, Fear No Music celebrates continuing trends in today's musical world. As part of the steadfast work of looking beyond borders with curiosity and respect, this program highlights the diverse fabric of our own neighborhoods. Tickets are $10 online presale for students and seniors, or $20 online presale regular at fearnomusic.org. Tickets are $15 and $25 at the door.
¦ Folk You, Too! Takes place at noon June 14 at the Old Church
A re-airing of last season's bonus concert, this program is a vibrantly diverse and creative showcase of music from countries around the world that have been maligned and misunderstood in our national conversation. Featured composers are Arturo Corrales of El Salvador, Joshua Uzoigwe of Nigeria, and Haitian-American Nathalie Joachim. The concert coincides with President Donald Trump's birthday, and as a special tribute, concludes with Daniel Felsenfeld's Presidential Address, a sober, unflinching setting of the President's own words from the infamous Access: Hollywood tapes.
All tickets $10 for this show.
Visit fearnomusic.org to purchase.
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