Helen Sung Quartet with Nicola Allen

April 30, 2017

Helen Sung Quartet

A native of Houston, Texas, and classically trained on the piano and violin starting at the age of five, Helen Sung’s musical life took a new direction as the result of a chance meeting with jazz during her undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Spurred by the desire to swing, she went on to study at the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and won the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Jazz Piano Competition. Now based in New York City, Sung has worked with a “Who’s Who” in jazz, including the late Clark Terry, Ron Carter, Victor Lewis, Wayne Shorter and MacArthur Fellow Regina Carter. In addition to her own band, Sung can be seen with such ensembles as the Mingus Big Band and Terri Lyne Carrington’s Mosaic Project (she also performed on Carrington’s Grammy-winning album Mosaic Project). An active composer, Sung has completed several commissions and grants, including a 2014 Chamber Music America/Doris Duke Foundation New Jazz Works grant which enabled her to create and record Sung With Words (album release scheduled for 2017). Sung’s sixth leader release Anthem For A New Day (Concord Jazz) topped jazz radio charts and garnered a SESAC Performance Activity Award. Inspired by her experience at the Monk Institute, she stays active in music education through residencies/workshops, and joined the jazz faculties at The Juilliard School and Columbia University in 2015.

Building on the musical vistas of Anthem For A New Day, Sung and her quartet continue the quest for artistic discovery with inspiration coming from diverse and unexpected places. For example, her growing familiarity with Charles Mingus (through her work with the Mingus Big Band) has resulted in new compositions that grapple, as he did so masterfully, with contemporary themes and issues. The colors and textures of Sung’s classical training also continue to inform her jazz work in deeper and more profound ways. With a band that includes some of the finest artists of this generation, the Helen Sung Quartet regularly tours both the United States and internationally, thrilling audiences everywhere.

Nicola Allen
Assistant Professor
Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory

Nicola Allen, the Hearst Foundation Developmental Chair, is an assistant professor in the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory and the Crick-Jacobs Center for Computational and Theoretical Biology.

Dr. Allen’s work is focused on understanding the mechanisms by which neural networks are formed during development, and regulated during health and disease. Most research on neural networks investigates neurons themselves, but Dr. Allen takes a unique approach by asking how other cells in the brain, in particular a class of glial cells called astrocytes, contribute to neuronal network formation and function. Her research identifies the molecular cues used by astrocytes to regulate neuronal synapse formation, maturation, and remodeling. These findings are important for determining how the brain normally develops, and have implications for understanding neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism, that are caused by defects in synapse formation and function. Her long term goal is to use the knowledge obtained studying astrocytes in the developing brain to apply to regenerating the brain following injury or degenerative disease, in particular stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.