Samantha Whelan Kotkas
As a Canadian artist working in a variety of styles, genres, and settings, Tong is on a continuous mission to bring new creative initiatives to the community. As a concert pianist, she has performed with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra, and received awards including the International Chopin Golden Ring Competition, the Canadian Music Competition, the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal of Performing Arts, and the Canada Graduate Scholarship. With the Kuma Trio and Z4 Quartet, Tong has performed at venues such as Salle Bourgie, Victoria Hall, Christ Church Cathedral, and presented outreach programs at schools, senior homes, and veteran hospitals during residencies at the Beijing Central Conservatory and the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance.
Tong has been involved in various social and entrepreneurial initiatives including the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Music for Food, New England Conservatory’s Community Partnerships and Performances Program, and In Concert for Cambodia. As a Lincoln Center Stage artist, she has performed educational chamber music concerts featuring a diverse range of genres onboard Holland America Line. Additionally, as a founding member of the Montreal Musicians Collective, she has assisted the expansion of the Heritage Festival, a year-round concert series promoting works by queer, underrepresented, and marginalized composers. Throughout the fall of 2020, she performed in a series of concerts at the Lunenburg Academy’s Beethoven 250th Celebration Festival.
Tong is actively exploring the role of the arts in relationship to nature, science, technology, culture, and society through a variety of creative projects. Her current projects include the sound novel, “The [blank] Journal”, the immersive multimedia installation, “E-mote: A Time Capsule”, and the solo piano album with Orpheus Classical Records, “Once Upon a Key”. Her fiction, poetry, artwork, and essays have been published in the newspaper Penguin and the academic journal Hear Here!, where she also served as co-editor. Her photo-narrative, “E-mote”, was published by the literary project “carte blanche” in Issue 39, “Anxiety”, and shortlisted for the 3Macs Prize. As Executive Director of the arts initiative Zenkora Studios, Tong has led a multidisciplinary team of artists across the US and Canada to pursue innovative projects and produce multimedia orchestra concerts that illustrate the stories of an original fantasy universe.
Tong’s graduate research-performance project on “cuteness” as an aesthetic in Japan’s Studio Ghibli music was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Her violin-piano duo, TAG, is touring a program, “Song of Praise”, which explores the complex and multidimensional elements that make up their identities as Chinese-Canadian immigrant musicians. Recently, she has been chosen as a winner of the International Music Competition "Concert Tours to China" to perform her solo recital program, “Homecoming”, at major concert halls across China in 2021. This project will feature new commissions by young Chinese composers and further encourage cultural exchange between east and west.
Tong’s mentors include Kyoko Hashimoto, Bruce Brubaker, and Boris Konovalov. She has studied and performed at music festivals across Europe, Canada, and the U.S., including the Siena Music Festival, Rome Music Festival, Mendelssohn Academy, Holland Music Sessions, Brevard Music Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, Orford Musique, and PianoFest in the Hamptons. Tong received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Piano Performance from the New England Conservatory and McGill University, where she is currently a Doctorate Fellow. As a 2021 Cohort of the Global Leaders Program, she will be collaborating with international partners to drive social change, develop innovative initiatives, and make a sustainable impact on the community through music.