One of the top 500 most influential Asian Americans according to a poll conducted in 1996 by Avenue, Brenda Wong Aoki has created her unique sound by fusing Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, and Scottish traditions. Her performances have been described as "a synthesis of Japanese noh, Kyogen theater, Commedia Dell'Arte, and modern dance." A native of Salt Lake City, Aoki grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of Long Beach. Trained on the French horn and piano as a child, she began her career as an actress/singer in conventional Western productions. As a student at the University of Santa Cruz, which she attended on an Economic Opportunity Program (EOP) scholarship, she began to take an interest in her own multicultural heritage. While she has continued to perform in a variety of formats, Aoki has made her greatest impression through one-woman shows, including Tales of the Pacific Rim in 1990, Random Acts of Kindness and Obake! Tales of Spirits Past and Present in 1991, and The Queen's Garden in 1992. The Queen's Garden received four Dramalogue Awards and a San Diego Critic's Circle award. The soundtrack to Tales of the Pacific Rim, recorded with bassist/composer Mark Izu, received a National Academy of Independent Record Distributors (NAIRD) Award for Best Spoken Word Album. Aoki has remained active; in October 1998, her autobiographical show Uncle Gunjiro's Girlfriend, debuted at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Mermaid, a symphonic story, features music by Izu performed with the accompaniment of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kent Nagano. Aoki received a United States Pan Asian Chamber of Commerce Award in 2000.
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