Hailed in the press as a "keyboard virtuoso and avant-garde muse" (Georgia Straight) with the “emotional intensity” to take a piece “from notes on a page to a stunning work of art” (Victoria Times Colonist), pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa has performed as soloist and chamber musician in Canada, the United States, the Netherlands and Germany. Known for bold and innovative concerts, Rachel combines her warmth and curiosity to touch the hearts and minds of audiences, whether she is playing Beethoven and Schumann or Ligeti and Saariaho.
One half of the flute/piano duo Tiresias with Mark McGregor, Rachel has also performed with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Judith Forst, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw and Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire. Rachel has appeared for Muziekweek Gaudeamus, Music TORONTO, Vancouver New Music, Music on Main, Redshift, the Western Front, the Victoria Symphony, the Aventa Ensemble (Victoria), CONTACT contemporary music (Toronto), New Works Calgary, Groundswell New Music (Winnipeg), and Vancouver Pro Musica. Rachel has a shameless passion for contemporary music, and has performed numerous premières, including pieces written especially for her by Rodney Sharman, Jeffrey Ryan, Jocelyn Morlock, Emily Doolittle, Alexander Pechenyuk, and many other Canadian composers. Rachel’s debut solo CD, Cosmophony, piano music inspired by the cosmos, was released in 2010 on Redshift Records. Praised by the Vancouver Sun as “brilliant” and “unforgettable” and nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award, Cosmophony features the Canadian premiere recording of George Crumb’s Makrokosmos, Volume II and no less than nine commissioned works by Canadian composers.
Rachel is one half of the flute/piano duo Tiresias with Mark McGregor. Their debut CD, Delicate Fires, was nominated for a 2008 Western Canadian Music Award. Delicate Fires was produced with the generous assistance of the Barbara Pentland fund, and features the first commercially released recordings of her Sonata Fantasy for solo piano and Trance for flute and piano. It also presents the premiere recordings of works commissioned by Tiresias from Canadian composers Rodney Sharman, Jennifer Butler, and Jocelyn Morlock. Tiresias’s sophomore recording was double CD released in 2013: Trade Winds, showcasing the works of BC composers Jean Coulthard, Paul Douglas and Christopher Kovarik, paired with Halos of the Moon, exploring Japanese-Canadian hybridity in music with works by Toru Takemitsu, Jo Kondo, Eliot Weisgarber, Anthony Genge, Derek Charke, Hiroki Tsuromoto and Kara Gibbs.
Rachel’s major teachers were Jane Coop, Menahem Pressler, and Robin Wood. She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of British Columbia, a Master of Music from Indiana University, and a Bachelor of Music from the University of Victoria, where she earned the Victoria Medal as the top graduating student in Fine Arts. She was also a two-time recipient of the prestigious Annual Grant from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) for graduate studies at the Hochschule für Musik "Hanns Eisler" Berlin. Other awards include numerous grants from the Canada Council, the BC Arts Council, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the Alberta Heritage Foundation. Rachel is a founder of the Queer Arts Festival, regarded as one of the top 5 festivals of its kind worldwide.