Ayane Kozasa, Jury Chairman

United States

Hailed for her “magnetic, wide-ranging tone” and her “rock solid technique” (Philadelphia Inquirer), violist Ayane Kozasa is a sought-after chamber musician, collaborator, and educator. Since winning the 2011 Primrose International Viola Competition—where she also captured awards for best chamber music and commissioned work performances— Kozasa has appeared on stages across the world, from Carnegie, Wigmore, and Suntory Hall to Ravinia, Aspen, and the Marlboro Music Festival. She is a passionate advocate for the expansion of viola repertoire, and has commissioned multiple new works featuring the viola, including American Haiku by Paul Wiancko and K’Zohar Harakia by Judd Greenstein.

Kozasa has developed a career that revolves around the art of chamber music. As a founding member of the Aizuri Quartet for 11 years, she developed her skills of launching a brand-new ensemble. The quartet was the 2018 quartet-in-residence at the Metropolitan Museum and the grand prize winners of both the Osaka International String Quartet Competition and MPrize Chamber Arts Competition. The Aizuri Quartet’s debut album, Blueprinting—which features the music of 5 American composers, all commissioned by the quartet—was nominated for a Grammy Award and named one of NPR’s top 10 classical albums of 2018. With collaboration being a deep part of their identity, they performed with artists such as Wilco, Marcy Rosen, Michi Wiancko, Jonathan Biss, and Maeve Gilchrist. Their devotion to education brought them to young musicians around the world, and they crafted a unique student composer workshop format that they implemented at institutions such as the University of Southern California, Princeton University, and New York Youth Symphony. In 2020, the quartet launched AizuriKids, an interactive web series for children that explores relationships between music and themes ranging from astrophysics to cooking. Their dedication to the art of the string quartet for 11 years was recognized by Chamber Music America, and in 2022 the quartet received the Cleveland Quartet Award.

Currently, Kozasa is a member of the duo Ayane & Paul with composer and cellist Paul Wiancko, with whom she collaborated on Norah Jones’ album Pick Me Up Off the Floor. The duo has appeared at several festivals, including Spoleto Festival USA, Brooklyn Chamber Music Society, and the St. Lawrence String Quartet Seminar. Kozasa’s most recent passion project Owls is a quartet collective with violinist Alexi Kenney and cellists Gabriel Cabezas and Paul Wiancko. Owls share an uncommonly fierce creative spirit, weaving together new compositions with original arrangements of music ranging from the 1600s to the present, and have played at series such as the Baryshnikov Arts Center in NYC and the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.

Other collaboration highlights include performances with world-renowned artists such as Tessa Lark, Steven Banks, Nobuko Imai, and the Kronos Quartet. As a seasoned orchestral performer, Kozasa has performed with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, A Far Cry, Philadelphia Orchestra, East Coast Chamber Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, as well as the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, where she served as principal violist from 2012 to 2016.

Much of Kozasa’s current work involves mentoring aspiring young musicians through programs like the Meadowmount School of Music, Green Lake Chamber Music Camp, and Olympic Music Festival. She is currently on the viola faculty at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and has been guest faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Northwestern University. Taking inspiration from her mentors the Cavani Quartet, Kozasa has developed several education-based music shows curated especially for the youth in a festival’s community including Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts and Spoleto Festival. Kozasa is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, Kronberg Academy in Germany, and Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied viola with Misha Amory, Roberto Díaz, Nobuko Imai, and Kirsten Docter. Aside from music, she enjoys hiking, drawing, and creating animation.