Susie Ibarra

Composer, Percussionist, Improviser, Educator


Susie Ibarra has performed at numerous festivals and concert halls including: Lincoln Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Weill Recital and Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall NYC, The Barbican Theatre London, The Noguchi Museum, The Exploratorium San Francisco, Pioneer Works Brooklyn, Smithsonian Institute, Library of Congress, Sharjah Art Foundation and Biennial , REDCAT Roy and Edna Disney/Calarts Theatre, The Kitchen, The Serpentine Summer Festival and Gallery Pavilion London, Modern Art Museum MoMA Summer Garden, TED Long Beach, TED Vancouver and TED Global Rio, Thames River Festival for the London 2012 Olympics, , Music and Social Gastronomy at the Refettorio for Rio 2016  Olympics, Sacred Music Festival of Fez Morocco 2016, National Museum of Wildlife Art, EMPAC Rensselear RPI, Ecstatic Music Festival, Electronic Music Festival,

Collaborating Artists

Susie Ibarra has recorded over 40 recordings as a leader, collaborator and soloist. She has performed with many artists including Wadada Leo Smith, Dave Douglas, John Zorn, Pauline Oliveros, Ikue Mori, Tarek Atoui, Yuka Honda, Sylvie Courvoisier, Tania Leon, Yoshimio, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Marc Ribot, Juan Sanchez, Roberto Juan Rodriguez, Anthony Davis, Yusef Komunyakaa, Makoto Fujimura, Trisha Brown, Daniel Fish, Mark Dresser, William Parker, Min Xiao Fen, John Lindberg, Kathleen Supove, Jennifer Choi, Bridget Kibbey, Dr. L Subramaniam, Miya Masaoka, George Lewis, Thurston Moore, Sean Lennon, Prefuse 73, Yo La Tengo.

Awards and Fellowships

Susie Ibarra is a Yamaha Drums, Vic Firth Sticks and Mallets and Paiste Cymbals and Gongs sponsored Artist.

TED Senior Fellow 2014

Harvestworks Electronic Music Artist in Residency 2012

TED Fellow 2010

NYFA New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in  Music/ Sound  2010

Asia 21 Young Leaders Fellow, Summit Jakarta, Indonesia 2010

Asia Cultural Council Fellow 2007

Downbeat Critics Poll, Nominated for Best Percussionist 2017

Downbeat International Readers Poll, Best Percussionist 2010

Downbeat Critics Poll, Best Percussionist 2009

Modern Drummer Cover Feature “Changing the Game”  2010

Modern Drummer Pro Panel 2012

Recent Grants

Kensinger Meeting Award, Bennington College Summer 2017 to Co-Host a Convening in Improvisation with Susan Sgorbati, Elena Demyanenko and guests

Bennington Faculty Research Grant Summer 2017 for initial sound recording tests on Easton Glacier,Washington. Initial recording tests were made to research sounds in the environment of a glacier with glaciologist and geomorphologist Michele Koppes. These tests were development work for upcoming research to map from source to sink along 1200 miles the sounds of 3 glaciers , its rivers and communities that it serves in the Himalayas in 2018.

National Endowment for the Arts and Art Place America, Our Town Grant, with The City of Asylum, Pittsburgh for Digital Sanctuaries Pittsburgh, a modular music and poetry app walk of historic sites in north Pittsburgh, PA 2014

New Music USA New Commission, for Digital Sanctuaries NYC, a modular music app walk of 12 historic sites in Lower Manhattan with Lower Manhattan Cultural Council 2013

MAP (Multi-Arts Program) Fund, a Rockefeller Foundation , Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant for Digital Sanctuaries NYC 2013 

Recent Commissions and Creative Work

Sept–Dec 2017 Musician in Residency at Pioneer Works

2018 Premiere of working title Fragility”  a study in Polyrhythms

Commission for new work by Asia Society in partnership with Pioneer Works to research and develop an analog polyrhythmic game, album recording and performative installation in collaboration with Physicist Bernard Grossman and Choreographer Susan Sgorbati and the music studio, tech lab, visual art and physics lab at Pioneer Works.

2018 Commission for Kronos String Quartet and Carnegie Hall, 50 for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire.  A new string quartet + percussion for Kronos String Quartet . 50 new works by 25 women and 25 men over several years that are devoted to contemporary approaches and designed for the training of students and emerging professionals.

2018 Commission and 2018 summer premiere for PRISM Saxophone Quartet to create a new contemporary work for saxophone quartet + Ibarra soloist on percussion for performance at the Free Library of Philadelphia, recording on XAS Records, and performance in NYC.

2018 Spring

Davenport Composer in Residence at SUNY New Paltz NY

Commission and Premiere for a new work Talking Gong for concert pianist Alex Peh and ensemble

2018 Spring Premiere of Talking Gong at SUNY New Paltz NY and at the Look and Listen Festival NYC curated by Phyllis Chen.

2017-2019  Himalayas Soundscapes Project

The cascading effects of climate change create their own sound; but no one has really bothered to listen. Alongside glaciologist and geomorphologist Michele Koppes and a research team in science and sound, we will record the sounds of glacial recession and downstream effects along the length of Ganges River. We will record the sounds of ice melting and people adapting from source to sink.
To our knowledge, no one has yet created a climate soundscape; in addition, Michele believes that sonic monitoring may be a useful tool, new to science, to document physical and cultural adaption to climate change.

Our final creation will be an immersive soundscape that will run from the high Himalayas at 22,000 ft to the Ganges Delta over a course of 1,200 miles. Listening to this journey will tell the story of physical climate change and human responses. This will be an evocative and immersive sonic journey that captures life and nature along an edge of intense climate impacts. We believe that by hearing and immersing into local reality, the stories of the ice, people and culture will be shared. Alongside the soundscape, I will transcribe and score the Himalayas sounds and I intend to build instruments out of the rock and stone landscape of the glaciers.

We believe this climatic soundscape may evoke strong emotions when listened to. Reactions of grief, empathy and compassion for others may be elicited. As the recording moves from cold crackles of the high alpine into the cacophonous expanse of the lower Ganges, we hope that listeners will experience for themselves that these systems – the glaciers and the cultures – are intertwined.

July 2017 has included an initial sound test along Easton Glacier.  2018 will include 3 research trips to record sound from source to sink in the Himalayas and install in Sadopanth Glacier hydrophones for year round data sourcing. 2019 we will create a sound art installation of the Himalaya soundscapes.

2017 August Premiere

Commissioned music score for feature film, When the Storm Fades, written and directed by Filipino-Canadian director Sean Devlin and executive producers The Yes Men.

ABOUT THE FILM: A tragicomic re-enactment of a Filipino family’s daily struggle to recover from the strongest storm in recorded history. Three years after Typhoon Haiyan, the Pablos have rebuilt their seaside home in Tacloban, one of the Philippines’ poorest neighbourhoods. Their slow recovery is shaken up by two awkward Canadian volunteers planting trees in the community. This white couple is learning the difference between helping and actually being helpful. The result is a satirical examination of the white saviour complex and a quiet meditation on grief in the era of climate change. A microbudget film from Filipino-Canadian director Sean Devlin 叶 世民, starring real Filipino storm survivors re-enacting their own experiences alongside Canadian Comedy Award Winners Kayla Lorette and Aaron Read.

August 2016

Social project collaboration with TEDSenior Fellow and Social Gastronomist , Brazilian Chef David Hertz , to bring music and nutritious meals for those in need from repurposed food during the Rio Olympics at the Refettorio Rio. “Musician and ( Bennington) faculty member Susie Ibarra is working with David Hertz, a Brazilian chef and a World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader, around the launch of Refettorio Gastromotiva, a food and cultural center that will repurpose 12 tons of food from the Olympics to turn it into nutritious meals for the neediest of Rio.”

May 2016

Sacred Music Festival of Fez, Musical Water Routes of Fez,

A modular architecture and music app of the old city Medina of Fez water routes for iphone and ipad in collaboration with Architect Aziza Chaouni. Music by Ibarra with Field Recordings of the Hamdcha Fez Sufi Group.

June 2015

Commission and Installation title “Mirrors and Water” with guest Chinese Pipa musician, Min Xiao Fen,  for Ai Wei Wei’s installation of Circle of Animals, Zodiac Heads at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson Wyoming.

February 2015

Solo percussion performance of Circadian Rhythms for a 72 channel speaker theatre at the San Francisco Exploratorium. Music by Ibarra with Field Recordings from the Cornell Macaulay Library.

August 2014  & July 2013

Digital Sanctuaries Pittsburgh

Digital Sanctuaries Lower Manhattan

Digital Sanctuaries, a modular music app walk that remaps cities with sanctuaries of music and engages with historical and cultural sites within a city with music composed by Electric Kulintang commissioned by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and The City of Asylum Pittsburgh.

August 2014

The Cotabato Sessions, a digital music film and album that captures one family legacy of gong-chime kulintang music in Mindanao, Philippine Written and produced by Susie Ibarra, Filmed by Joel Quizon and Form Follows Function Inc, advised by the late master kulintang artist Danongan Kalanduyan.

April 2014

The City a Radio Radiance commission for Young Peoples Chorus of NYC

June 2014

We Float, a commission by Ecstatic Music Festival with singer songwriter Mirah, a sonic retelling of space explorations

Earth Day April 2013

Circadian Rhythms, commissioned for Earth Day 2013 at Renssalear RPI EMPAC inspired by endogenous rhythms for 80 percussionists and 8.1 surround sound of Macaulay Library recordings.

Selected Discography

2018 winter release Yoshimio, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Susie Ibarra, Dunes , Thrill Jockey Records

2017 fall release Susie Ibarra DreamTime Ensemble, Perception , recorded for Decibel Collective Records

2017 April Mamadou Kelly, Politiki, Clermont Music

2016  Dave Douglas, Marc Ribot, Susie Ibarra,  New Sanctuary Trio, Greenleaf Music

2012  Wadada Leo Smith,  Ten Freedom Summers , Cuneiform Records

2007  Susie Ibarra solo, Drum Sketches, Innova Records

2007 Electric Kulintang, Dialects, Plastic Records

2004 Susie Ibarra Trio, Folkloriko, Tzadik Records

2002  Susie Ibarra Trio, Songbird Suite, Tzadik Records

2002 Derek Bailey and Susie Ibarra , Bids , Incus Records

2000 Susie Ibarra  Flower after Flower , Tzadik Records

Position   Faculty of Music and Advancement in Public Action,

Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont

Susie Ibarra is a Faculty member at Bennington College where she teaches Performance, Percussion and at the Center for Advancement of Public Action. Her teaching at the Center focuses on her work in Art Intervention, Revitalization of Urban and Rural Environments with the Arts, and Advocacy for Human Rights extended equally to Women and Girls. Her teaching in Music focuses on Southeast and South Asian Percussion, Gongs, Drums and Bamboo, Jazz Drumset and Performance, Composer/Performer Ensembles and History of Women in Improvised Music.


B.A. Goddard College 1995 ; B.M. Mannes College of Music 1993

Research Interests 



Sonic Mapping

Creative Placemaking

Revitalization of communities with the arts

Music and Technology

Music and Art and its dialogue on Climate Change

Drums and Percussion Music

Philippine Indigenous music

Philippine, Indonesian, Nepalese, Burmese, Indian Percussion Music


Women Composers and Improvisers

Courses Taught at Bennington

Drums, Gongs and Bamboo 

Drums, Gongs and Bamboo is an introduction to Southeast and South Asian Percussion. This workshop will offer an overview and opportunity to listen to, learn and play percussion music from several countries in these regions. This ensemble will listen to and learn and adapt traditional music from countries such as Philippines, Burma, Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Iran,

Open to students at all levels.

World Percussion Ensemble

During this class we will examine percussion music from several music traditions including Arabic Tarab rhythms and music, Burmese traditional music, North Nepalese drumming compositions, Northern Philippine Bamboo percussion, Southern Philippine kulintang gong music,

The purpose of this ensemble is to: study and perform traditional musical forms of music from several regions of the world; create a new performing ensemble; and study and host 3 guest artists during the spring term

Pieces of Time 

 In honor of the quartet recording of drums and percussion music by Milford Graves, Andrew Cyrille, Famadou Don Moye and Kenny Clarke, Pieces of Time delves into the vocabulary and structures of jazz drumming and percussion. While studying the styles of these drummers, the class will also examine drumming and percussion styles within the genre. This ensemble will reconstruct and create its own Pieces of Time performed for Milford Graves during the term.

The Pieces of Time Ensemble will be comprised of 3 phases:

  1. History and Foundation (4 classes)
  2. Phrasing with Melody, Harmony and Rhythm (5 classes)
  3. Composing and Improvising music for the Pieces of Time Ensemble (5 classes)

Jazz Trapset and Drums

This ensemble will study the history of jazz on the trapset. The ensemble will examine and learn to play jazz styles and its influences from the 1900 to present day music, including American New Orleans second line, African and Cuban claves in jazz, blues, swing, bebop, hard bop, modern, free, electric and current trends of crossover styles.

The course will include:

  1. History of Jazz Styles
  2. Sticks, Mallets and Brushwork technique
  3. Learning to play on the trapset, bells and woodblocks, and extended percussion for sticking and hand drumming with the trapset
  4. Notating Rhythms
  5. Learning to play as a drum ensemble
  6. Performance

Women Improvisers in Music

In this class we will examine women musicians who have and do utilize the musical practice of improvisation in various genres of music and several eras.  To better gain a perspective of the cultural background and how musical improvisation is created we will examine these women artists styles in monophonic (single line music) homophonic (multi parts moving together, such as a melody with chords) , polyphonic ( two or more independent parts) and heterophonic ( multi- parts using the same melody but not necessarily at the same time) music.  This will include some of the greatest women artists who have performed Cuban troubadour music, Indian ragas, Arabic Tarab music, American Blues and Jazz, European Classical music, Electro-Acoustic music up to present day contemporary improvisers.

 Creative Music Ensemble

Creative Music Ensemble will explore the practice of music that is created by Composer/Improvisers. Students will study and play music through scores, notation systems, game pieces, structured improvisations and conceptual drawings, created by various composers/performers such as Pauline Oliveros, Wadada Leo Smith, Jose Maceda, John Zorn, Butch Morris, Sun Ra, among others.

Philippine Kulintang Gong Ensemble

Originating from 14th Century Philippine court music (and arguably possibly earlier) Kulintang gong music was created in Mindanao, the Southern island of the Philippines. Kulintang is practiced in many styles from several groups in the Philippines, northern Indonesia, Malaysia, Borneo and Brunei. This ensemble is a 2000 level course that will introduce the origins of Maguindanaon kulintang music, performing styles, modern cipher/number notation, and how to play as an ensemble all the instruments. This class will also examine contemporary work that has been composed for Kulintang as well as experiment in composing and performing works created by students in the class

Prequisite:   Open to beginners.


-To study and learn traditional styles of Philippine Kulintang Gong Music.

-To learn about the music and culture of Maguindanaon Kulintang music

-To be able to play and perform pieces from this style of music

Bennington Experimental Marching Band

The time has come. Bennington College needs a marching band – our own breed. This ensemble will explore traditions of “music-to-move-by” from different parts of the world that travel through rural and cities landscapes of Eastern Europe, Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa, South America back to North America and our own American cities such as New Orleans. We will examine village, town and city bands, school bands, music for rituals of weddings, funerals, harvest processions. From this students will collaborate and create new music and movement for the Bennington Marching Band to play, dance and to move as a mass.

Interdisciplinary Improvisation Ensemble 

Interdisciplinary Improvisation Ensemble will examine the relationships and actions of people and nature in environmental and cultural landscapes. How we experience the particular natural or built environment around us influences how we feel and respond to others. Reflecting on our own interactions with others and our own personal histories, we can make choices to connect with others in a generous and open manner. Cultivating a group artistic practice through a public art space can elevate dialogue, collaboration and transformation. Sgorbati and Ibarra will teach techniques and forms for music and movement that enable an ensemble to create dialogues about landscapes through continuous emergent improvisation.

Cities Art Forum

Cities Art Forum will explore and discuss the current trajectories of cities through the relationships and works of artists with cities.  Cities have defined many artist’s work, while artists have also defined and help build cities. Art has transformed public spaces and created economic growth. It has provided a critical eye and ear for what is not being seen or heard. While collaborating with health programs and supporting children’s education, art also grapples with poverty, and speaks out on human rights issues. Art has demonstrated against violence and wars, interacted with media and technology and provided experiences of great beauty. Art in cities continues to demand however loud or quiet cultural growth in preserving heritage and cutting the edge. Who are some of these artists and what do their works look and sound like? What are some of the creative methods? What are some of the examples of how the creative process has served as a change agent? What are some of the possibilities?

 Rebuilding Cities with the Arts

Rebuilding Cities with the Arts examines case studies of Cities that have rebuilt or are rebuilding themselves while utilizing and involving the arts.  This is a testament to each cities success in economic growth and innovation and struggle with inequity, poverty, natural disasters, environmental degradation, political and civil unrest and governance. It is also evident in the artists who have committed themselves to their art practice and dedicated themselves to their local environment.  Such is the case with cities such as New Orleans, New York, Des Moines, Louisville, Detroit, Beirut, Delhi, Buenos Aires, Lagos, Istanbul, Seoul. 

The fall term the class will work on a strategic design project alongside choreographer and community developer Philippa Kaye to help activate what was the first high school, 109 Glendale, in Highland Park, Michigan.  Highland Park is a city within Metro Detroit.  Rebuilding Cities will research 109 Glendale and its neighborhood while imagining how to build community, re-invent uses for this grand neo-gothic structure and it’s surrounding buildings while considering its city infrastructure and what is possible with the arts in Detroit.

Philippa Kaye is a dance maker specializing in new and site-specific performance.  Her choreography is informed by a fascination with scientific inquiry.  A native New Yorker, she has seen physical and social change in neighborhoods because of their occupation by artists. She is now working to bring physical action to Detroit, a city rich in resources critical to artistic success: notably, time and space.

Sister City Project students will join in the readings and discussions of Rebuilding Cities and continue to focus on their project, Sister City – Tagum City and Bennington.

Sister City Project: Tagum City, Mindanao/Bennington, Vermont

Bennington students are invited to research and design the development of a sister city project, Tagum City, Mindanao, Philippines and Bennington, Vermont.   Situated in the heart of a rich agricultural island, Mindanao in the Philippines, Tagum City is known as a city that is progressive in education as well as a music capital of the Philippines. Tagum resides 20 minutes of central Davao City, the eco-city of the Philippines. Students will research and design a plan to create a Sister City relationship with Bennington and Tagum through the performing and visual arts.

Future Generations:  Urban and Rural Revitalization with the Arts

This course examines the art practices in city, town and village communities both past and present to better understand its effectiveness with multiple generations in a community. How have artists and their communities engaged and intervened with public life?  Students will study historical and current artists works in communities that address public issues of inequity, social representation, natural disasters, cultural and environmental degradation, political and civil unrest and governance. How has this affected revitalization in urban and rural regions?

As a field component, the class will continue research and development on the curricular design of the music school, Joudour Sahara, in M’Hamid El Ghizlane oasis, South Sahara Morocco. Bennington will launch a field work term for 2 students and faculty exchange to the school, winter of 2018 when the music school opens. Joudour Sahara is being build in the UNESCO biosphere and Bennington is collaborating with NGOS Sahara Foundation, Zaila Foundation, Playing for Change and Aziza Chaouni Design Projects to open the afterschool music progra

Improvisation, Indeterminacy and Art Intervention

This course explores art intervention in cities and rural environments that utilize methods of improvisation and indeterminacy to address social and environmental issues. The class will examine the relationships and dialogue between traditional and contemporary practices of problem solving in communities.

The class will work on collaborating on the design and curriculum of the Music School, M’Hamid El Ghizlane Oasis for disadvantaged youth in the South Sahara, Morocco with Aziza Chaouni Projects and NGO Playing for Change, Sahara Roots Foundation and Zalia

College Committee Service, Community Activities and Initiatives


Supporting Music Faculty in searching for and recommended candidates who have been hired to teach for Recording/Sound Design 2014 & 2017, Percussion Fall 2017 and Ethnomusicologist Spring 2018.

Supports in all Core Music Faculty endeavors for curriculum, event and concert planning, scheduling, choosing E Music Artists in Residence, Composer Interns and Fellow, gender discussions, instrument repairs, service and purchases in percussion, music budgets, etc.

Co-Curated Student Fall Music Festival 2016

Hosted World Music Performances in the Dean Carriage Barn Spring 2017 including:

Music of Myanmar with alum Kit Young, North Indian Classical music with Veena an Devesh Chandra and Sephardic Music of Turkey with Joseph and Brenda Alpar.

Served as music CPC (Curriculum Planning Committee) representative for 3 terms from 2015-2016.


Hosted Cities Art Forum guest artists: Anita Doron, Lukas Ligeti, Andrew Horwitz and Shankari Murali 2014

Sister City Project, Tagum City/ Bennington Town & College Exchange

Co-organizing and interviewing Interviews on Improvisation for CAPA Archive beginning Fall 2017 with Susan Sgorbati, Elena Demyanenko and Erika Mijlin

Co- led and Convened in the Kensinger Retreat on Improvisation July 2017 with Susan Sgorbati, and Elena Demyanenko. Featured guests: Andrew Goldman, Cordelia Sand, Chisa Hidaka, Bernard Grossman and skype guests Stuart Kaufman and Todd Veazie.

Recent Educational Work

2018 Winter

 In collaboration with The Playing for Change Foundation and Aziza Chaouni Projects, Ibarra researched with Bennington College students to design a new afterschool music program and school, Joudour Sahara, in M’Hamid El Ghizlane, South Sahara Morocco. Ibarra and 3 of her art intervention classes helped to develop the curriculum for the school and plan to launch a partnership with Bennington College and Joudour Sahara to have students intern, and faculty research and teach during a Field Work Term.

2016  Winter

 Co-Convener and Professor for the Winter School at the University of Kyoto in collaborations with the Southeast Asian Institute in Kyoto, Japan and IIAS (International Institute for Asian Studies.) Mapping the Aesthetics of Urban Life in Asia: A Dialogue with the Arts. Ibarra lectured and led students in field work on soundscapes in urban Asia titled: The City as an Orchestra

Guest Professor in Percussion and Performance

The New School, The Banff Centre, University of Michigan, Indiana University, Mills College, Oberlin University, Hampshire College


extended list at

 An Interview with Susie Ibarra by Mia Wendel DiLallo,  Roulette New and Adventurous Music, NY.

Leonard Music Journal ( MIT Press)  , “Meaning through Hearing” , Audio Compilation curated by Lukas Ligeti  including “ Mirrors and Water”  a composition by Ibarra composed for Ai Wei Wei’s Circle of Animals, Zodiac Heads, commissioned by the National Wildlife Museum of Art in Jackson Wyoming 2015.

Modern Drummer, Susie Ibarra Cover Feature,  Changing the Game,  by Ken Micallef, 2010

Tom-Tom Magazine , Susie Ibarra Cover Feature, Sept 2010

Susie Ibarra, Exploring Aural –Visual Symbiosis, Amercian Composers Orchestra 2007