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September Spotlight: Andy Akiho, '01

Andy Akiho graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Percussion Performance in 2001. Akiho is a renowned composer based in Oregon. We caught up with Andy to discuss his time at the School of Music, current career and upcoming performance at the Southern Exposure New Music Series. Akiho’s monumental percussion quartet Seven Pillars has been called a “lush, brooding celebration of noise” (New York Times). Created in close collaboration with the virtuosic musicians of Sandbox Percussion, the piece was a finalist for two Grammy Awards and the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Music.

Why did you choose UofSC School of Music? 

It was my home school and I could not afford the application fees to apply or travel anywhere else.  I'm extremely grateful that I got to go to UofSC. it was the perfect school for me at that time in my life. 

What person, course or experience was most influential for you while at the School of Music?  

Professor Jim Hall was my main mentor and musical influence while I was at UofSC. He gave me so much positive encouragement from the very start. He helped nurture me to become a positive person in addition to all the incredible music he introduced to me. He guided my colleagues and myself to become more engaged and original musicians rather than just being a dogmatic molded percussionist. Our quest for originality was more important than any talent or skill set, although we all collaborated to strengthen everything. 

How has your education at School of Music helped you in your life and career? 

My education at UofSC is my foundation and roots. I started there not knowing much at all and could not even really read pitches correctly. All of the diverse ensembles, musicians and vibrant culture gave me a lot of courage to explore and take risks. 

What is one of your favorite memories, classes, professors or activities while attending the School of Music? 

West African Drum & Dance Ensemble and the Palmetto Pans Steel Band, coached by Chris Lee and Jim Hall.

What advice would you give current students or recent graduates pursuing a music performance or music education career? 

Be you and be the best in the world at being you. Work hard –work extremely hard– be grateful for all of the incredible colleagues and mentors you are surrounded by. Encourage each other to grow as you collaborate. Focus on what will make you happy, accomplished as a musician and a good human being. Do whatever it takes (legally and safely) to get there and have fun in that journey! 

What is one of your proudest professional or personal accomplishments that occurred after graduating? 

My proudest accomplishment after graduating UofSC is what I am living right now - a path with no real end goal in sight - constantly wanting to learn, adapt, change, grow and branch out of any comfort zones of complacency. I have an extremely long way to go. I am very grateful that my education at UofSC has led me in the right direction. 

Can you share any upcoming performances you may have scheduled? 

    • "Seven Pillars" performed by Sandbox Percussion at UofSC Southern Exposure Series on Sept. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the UofSC Recital Hall. 
    • Percussion & Steel Pans on Jon Batiste's "American Symphony"on Sept. 22 at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
    • Soloist on "Steel Pan Concerto" with Bozeman Symphony Orchestra on Sept. 24 and 25 at Willson Auditorium in Bozeman, Montana. 
    • Recital honoring sculptor, Jun Kaneko at Portland Japanese Garden on Sept. 30 in Portland, Oregon. 
    • Ballet of "Seven Pillars" choreographed by Benjamin Millepied with LA Dance Project on Oct. 13-16 at Chatelet in Paris.
    • Recital concert with Colburn Chamber Music Society on Nov. 6 at Colburn School in Los Angeles.


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