Kenji Haba is a guitarist who heralds a new direction for classical guitar through bringing new formats to the landscape, including the innovative guitar-cello ensemble and multidisciplinary performance. He is also an active solo performer of contemporary music, with over 20 pieces of music written for and premiered by him, including works featured in classical guitar magazines in Japan as well as the US. He is well known for his interpretation of Toru Takemitsu, his performances having been described as an “ideal match for Takemitsu’s music” by Fanfare (2010).
For the season 2018-2019, Mr. Haba will compose and record music for a short children’s book/animation by George Held, which is commissioned by Filsinger & Co. LTD. He will also appear at Mixed Bag concert series presented by The Arts + More, Non-Profit Organization. Mr. Haba will appear at Silvana, the Cornelia Street Café, Quinnipiac University, and more.
Kenji Haba is an active solo musician and has performed throughout the States, including in New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Nevada, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina as well as in Japan. In 2017, Kenji Haba was invited to hold a workshop about writing for a guitar and perform at Wisconsin University – Eau-Claire. There, Mr. Haba premiered “Lonely Road” written for him by Chia-Yu Hsu, Recipient of 2016 Music Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2018, Mr. Haba was invited to perform at An Impetus for Joy in New York, concert series organized by Cynthia Elvia Ramos, an internationally active Opera singer. In 2017, Mr. Haba was invited to record “Hoping You’ll Still Be There Tomorrow” by Yui Kitamura, a Nominee for 2011 Hollywood Music In Media Award in the classical/orchestra genre. It was released on November 1st, 2017 through Muse Travel Recordings. Mr. Haba appeared at The Secret Theater in 2017 Sounds of Arts Festival presented by Multicultural Sonic Evolution. In 2011, he was appointed as a featured artist at the 3rd Annual Special Guitar Concert, in New York City, sponsored by Vox Novus.
In 2010, Kenji Haba released his debut CD, music of Toru Takemitsu. Fanfare magazine highly praised the work, saying that his “nuanced performances are an ideal match for Takemitsu’s refined music.” Since then, Mr. Haba has been gaining more and more attention for his interpretations of the music of Takemitsu.
Kenji Haba has had opportunities to work with some of the preeminent composers of our time, including the Grammy nominated composer, Sergio Roberto, International Wiener Composition Prize winner, Dai Fujikura, and many others. Kenji Haba has premiered over 20 pieces of music written for him, including “New York, New York” by Thomas Flippin featured in Guitar Foundation of America Magazine in the United States as well as “Sparks” by Dai Fujikura featured in Gendai Guitar Magazine in Japan. Kenji Haba and Vox Novus, a NYC based composer’s organization, have been working closely, and he was the first guitarist to be appointed to perform the organization’s 15 minutes of fame project as a part of Composer’s voice concert series as well as its Tennessee Classical Guitar Seminar in 2011.
Mr. Haba is the founder of award-winning guitar-cello ensemble, Duo Anova with cellist, Susan D. Mandel. Duo Anova recently recorded a work written for them, “Where It Begins, Where It All Ends” by Masatora Goya and that was released through Naxos in August 2015. In 2016, Duo Anova appeared at Connecticut Guitar Society and praised as “Flawless performance and a true joy” by Laura Victoria, Board member of Connecticut Guitar Society.
In 2015, Duo Anova won an honorable mention award in the SMIA chamber music competition. Duo Anova made its debut at prestigious Carnegie Hall presented by Composer’s Voice, and praised as exhibiting a “striking compatibility” by New Music for the 21st Century. It has also performed at many other venues, including Bohemian National Hall, New York Academy of Art, Composer’s Voice 100th Gala concert, Saint Peter’s Church, etc.
Duo Anova collaborates with artists to explore the possibility of fusing performing arts with visual arts. Duo Anova was invited to perform at Tribeca Ball, one of the most important art events in the US which brings together an eclectic group of guests, a mix of celebrities, fashion people and art types, including former president Bill Clinton, Justin Timberlake and many others. In 2013, Duo Anova also performed in the magnificent installation art of Hisami Taniguchi at Resobox, contemporary art museum, in New York.
Duo Anova is committed to expanding its repertoire for these unique collaborations and performing with virtuosity and intensity. In 2016, Duo Anova premiered 3 new compositions: “Snow Column” by Robert Pearl, “Dreamland” by Jeremy Beck, and “One Small Fire” by Sara McDonald. Duo Anova has worked with over 20 composers, including award winning composers and emerging composers, including Goya Masatora, a recipient of Jerome Fund for New Music. In 2014, it participated in Vox Novus’ Fifteen Minutes of Fame series, featuring world premieres of fifteen one-minute pieces written especially for the group.
In addition, Duo Anova held the position of Visiting Artists through the Louis Armstrong Department of Music Therapy Program in 2013. They had a weekly residency at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City.
In 2015, Mr. Haba founded ONE ensemble, an ensemble to promote contemporary music. He produced and directed several multidisciplinary performances, one of which, “Beginning with ONE”, was sponsored by SONY and String by Mail. “Rafflesia”, a story-based multidisciplinary performance, was premiered at the Tank in New York City. It also appeared at DiMenna Center sponsored by Multicultural Sonic Evolution and shared stage with Curious Chamber Players, a renowned ensemble from Sweden. It also performed at Symphony Space in New York City as a part of Vox Novus 15th Anniversary Festival.
Mr. Haba has shared the stage with other eminent artists such as Oren Fader and Gregory Durozel. The performance with Oren Fader (guitar), was covered by Sukan New York Seikatsu, praising the ‘two renowned guitarists’. His performance with Gregory Durozel (violin) was a sold out Valentine’s day concert in New Jersey that ended with multiple standing ovations.
In 2014, Mr. Haba launched a concert series, JPNNYC, to promote contemporary music by Japanese composers in collaboration with Drew Spradlin. This concert premiered 2 compositions, including “Prelude and Fuga” by Miho Hazama, a winner of ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Award. It was featured in NY Seikatsu, Japanese newspaper in the US.
Kenji Haba is a part of Neighbors project: A musical project to present “Neighbors: The Yard Critters Too”, a collection of poems for children, by George Held, through guitar and sopranos. In collaboration with David Morneau, composer, Christina Hourihan, soprano, Kenji Haba premiered and preformed the project at 2014 Composer’s Voice Concert series as well as George Held’s new book release party in 2015.
On August 23, 2018, Kenji Haba appeared at The Eric Metaxas Show, a radio show hosted by #1 New York Times Best Seller, Eric Metaxas. Kenji accompanied French singer/actor, Laura Sauriat. The episode will be on air in the fall 2018. In 2014, Kenji Haba was interviewed by Ms. Komi Kaoru and the interview was published on New York Seikatsu. In 2013, Kenji Haba was interviewed and appeared in Classical Guitar Magazine in England as well was Gendai Guitar in Japan, both preeminent magazines in this genre.
In 2015, 2016, and 2017, Mr. Haba was a guest speaker at Conference with students from Gifu High School in Japan. The students visited New York City as a part of their Global Leadership Development Project: International Communication Program. The conference was covered by New York Seikatsu Newspaper. In December 2016, Mr. Haba was also a guest presenter at Association of New York Japanese MBA.
As an educator, Mr. Haba founded Willan Music Academy in 2015 and currently serves as its Director and Guitar Instructor. Willan Academy has been exceedingly successful and continues to gain accolades from clients as well as the New York music community. In 2016, 7 of its students were accepted to participate in NYU Youth Music Festival and premiered works by NYU students. In 2017, 3 of Mr. Haba’s students were invited to perform at NYU Youth Music Festival Holiday Concert at New York University. One of them was selected to compose a piece and premiered it at the concert.
Eastern and western cultural experiences have influenced Mr. Haba’s musical perception and directed him to a unique artistry. He was born in a rural area, called Mino-City, Japan. In 2001, he moved to United States to study Business, and worked for an accounting firm in NY. However, at age of 25, he listened to the sound of the master guitarist, Andres Segovia, and he came to an epiphany and realized he needed to pursue the art of the guitar. In 2006, Haba began studying classical guitar under renowned guitarist, Kevin R. Gallagher, and after one year of study, he was accepted into the Manhattan School of Music Master of Music Program, and worked with Mark Delpriora.