Migiwa Miyajima |  Composer, Pianist, Producer

  1. Overview (short bio)
  2. Background
  3. Producer
  4. Promoter of Education and International Exchange
  5. Awards Received as a Composer
  6. Awards Received as a Producer
  7. Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and Migiwa Miyajima
  8. Selected Accomplishments (Work with Big Bands, Composition, Performances, Producer, Music education, Lectures, Workshops and lectures conducted to date, TV/Radio/Media, Translator/Interpreter, Work with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra)


The colorful music of Migiwa Miyajima reflects the complexities and hues of her own journey, a trait that instantly touches the heart of the listener. Everyday sounds are brought to life, stirring the senses—from the smallest day-to-day pleasures, to the painful experience of families battling illness, to the breathtaking beauty of nature, to the sweet song of a little bird. Miyajima is passionate about giving back to society through music, and she demonstrates that passion through her active work as a producer, educator, lecturer, and promoter of international exchange. She seeks to leave her mark in each area and draws on her unique career path and accomplishments to captivate and surprise her audiences. 

Miyajima is particularly known for her big band jazz pieces, which she began composing in 1999. In 2015, she arranged, produced, and played piano on Fly Free, the debut album by Yukiko Miyazaki (vocalist). In July 2017, Miyajima makes her first appearance at one of New York’s most storied jazz clubs, Birdland—a send-off concert before she begins recording her US debut album, Colorful, at the prestigious Sear Sound studio in Manhattan the following month. 


After graduating from the Department of Education at Sophia University in Tokyo, Miyajima produced real estate ads at Recruit, worked as an IT engineer, and was an editor for a travel magazine. But in 2004, at the age of 30, she decided to leave the desk jobs behind and follow her passion, shifting to a career in music. She taught herself, foregoing formal musical college, and turned pro. In 2012, having received a scholarship through a Japanese government program for artists and a Japan-US Friendship Commission fellowship, Miyajima picked up and moved to New York. She now leads big bands on both sides of the Pacific that play her works, and she also composes for artists such as world-renowned saxophonist Steve Wilson.


Miyajima drew the attention of the industry when she became the first Japanese person ever selected to represent the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (VJO), a Grammy-award-winning band with more than 50 years of history, originally formed as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. In 2009, she successfully produced VJO’s fist Japan tour in 20 years, and in 2011 and 2014, she was nominated for a Grammy as the associate producer on two VJO albums. Skilled at collaborating with people working in different artistic disciplines as well, Miyajima is enjoying success in both Tokyo and New York, where she has produced events with painters, dancers, floral artists (ikebana), and others.

Promoter of Education and International Exchange

Since 2010, Miyajima has served as a judge for the “Stellar Jam” big band contest. From 2010 to 2011, she coordinated Douglas Purviance’s talk show and book, Mae ni susumu chikara (Discover 21, co-authored with Toru Atobe). In addition to managing VJO big band workshops every year since 2010, Miyajima has worked vigorously to connect American musicians with Japan. She holds her own workshops and lessons in locations around Japan and is actively carrying out lectures on career education. She has also been invited to speak at government-sponsored events in Ibaraki Prefecture, Kawasaki City in Kanagawa Prefecture, and elsewhere. In 2016, Miyajima carried out educational activities in 13 cities in Japan.

In addition, in 2015 she co-founded the New York Japanese Women Jazz Composers (NYJWJC) along with composer Asuka Kakitani and director Naomi Oshiro. The group is comprised of Japanese women composers who are residing in New York, and it organizes and carries out various international music-related exchanges. A concert held by the group in 2016 received support from the NY Consulate General, the NY office of the Japan Travel Bureau, and the Brooklyn Arts Council. In 2018 she co-founded NY Jazz Composers' Mosaic with Jihye Lee (South Korea) and Rafael Piccolotto de Lima (Brazil).

Awards Received as a Composer

2012–2013    Scholarship, Program of Overseas Study for Upcoming Artists, Japan Agency for Cultural Affairs 
2012–2013    Fellowship, US-Japan Creative Artists Program 
2015    Finalist, BMI’s Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize 
2015    Honorable Mention, Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra Composition Contest 
2016    Awardee, Brooklyn Arts Council (as co-founder and composer, NYJWJC) 
2018    Finalist, 2017 International Song Writing Contest 
2018    Winner, 2018 The International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM) 2018 Search for New Music Competition PDX Prize 
2019    Jerome Foundation’s Jerome Hill Artist (One of the 60 inaugural recipients)

Awards Received as a Producer

2011    Nominee, 54th Grammy Award (as associate producer of VJO’s Forever Lasting—Live in Tokyo)
2014     Nominee, 57th Grammy Award (as associate producer of VJO’s OverTime—Music of Bob Brookmeyer)

Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and Migiwa Miyajima

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (VJO), a 16-piece jazz orchestra that calls New York’s famous Village Vanguard jazz club its home, has been making music for more than 50 years. Founded in 1966 as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, the orchestra is among the premier ensembles in the world, and they continue to appear weekly at the Vanguard on Monday nights. In 2009, Miyajima volunteered to produce the band’s first Japan tour in 20 years, and the following year, she became the band’s representative in Japan. Since that time, she had produced the band’s annual Japan tours and Japan workshops till 2017. She also began working as the associate producer on VJO albums, and two of those CDs were nominated for Grammys in 2011 and 2014. (For further info, see below.)

Selected Accomplishments

Work with Big Bands

  • 1999    Founded professional big band “miggy+,” which continues to be the foundation of Miyajima’s big band work today
  • 2014    1st live big band concert in New York City
  • 2015    Co-founded New York Japanese Women Jazz Composers (NYJWJC) with composer Asuka Kakitani and director Naomi Oshiro, held collaborative concert
  • 2018    Changed name of miggy+ to Miggy Augmented Orchestra; released debut album in New York
  • 2018    Co-founded NY Jazz Composers' Mosaic with Jihye Lee (South Korea) and Rafael Piccolotto de Lima (Brazil) 


  • 2012    Composed and performed music for Intel commercial
  • 2013    Composed music for world-renowned saxophonist Steve Wilson’s CD, which was recorded at the mecca of jazz, the Village Vanguard
  • 2016–present    Composing original music for a weekly radio program of children’s stories on Nippon Broadcasting System


  • 2012    Performed at Australian Embassy, Tokyo
  • 2012    Composed and performed music for Intel commercial, Tokyo
  • 2014    Pianist for Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (VJO) Japan tour, Japan various places
  • 2016, 2019    Performed at UNIS (United Nations International School), NYC


  • 2009    Successfully staged the VJO’s first Japan tour in 20 years
  • 2010–2018    Japanese representative and associate producer for the VJO 
  • 2011    Nominated for Grammy as associate producer of the VJO’s album, Forever Lasting—Live in Tokyo
  • 2014    Nominated for Grammy as associate producer of the VJO’s album, OverTime—Music of Bob Brookmeyer
  • 2018    Associate producer of The Slide Hampton Big Band

Music Education

  • 2010–2016    Annual VJO big band workshop
  • 2010–2017    Judge, International Junior Jazz Orchestra Festival—Stellar Jam (big band contest)
  • 2010–2011    Organized various workshops and talk shows with Douglas Purviance (Tb) (Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka)
  • 2011    Producer, MC, musical arrangement, conductor for “Swing Carnival” at Jozenji Street Jazz Festival in Sendai, co-sponsored by Yamaha 
  • 2015    Organized various workshops with Steve Wilson (sax) (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Fukuoka)
  • 2016    Carried out educational initiatives in 13 cities within Japan
  • 2018    Masterclass and concerts with WAYJO (West Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra) Perth, Australia


  • 2015    Joint radio production with Ibaraki Broadcast System (Ibaraki Prefecture), broadcast of lecture: “Senpai kara no messeeji” [A message from an older peer] (at Ibaraki Prefecture Hitachi Daiichi High School)
  • 2016    Lecture at Kawasaki Jazz Festival, hosted by the city of Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture
  • 2018    Lecture at Sapporo City Jazz Festival, hosted by the city of Sapporo, Hokkaido Prefecture

Workshops and Lectures Conducted to Date
Sapporo, Hokkaido; Hachinohe, Aomori; Sendai, Miyagi; Hitachi, Ibaraki; Mito, Ibaraki; Kasama, Ibaraki; Tokyo; Kawasaki, Kanagawa; Nagoya; Osaka; Kobe; Kyoto; Toyama City, Toyama; Kanazawa, Toyama; Matsuyama, Ehime; Saga; Fukuoka; Kagoshima; etc.


  • September 2015    Joint production with Ibaraki Broadcast System (Ibaraki Prefecture), “Senpai kara no messeeji” [A message from an older peer]—broadcast of an abridged version of a lecture at the Ibaraki Prefecture Hitachi Daiichi High School
  • December 2015    First guest on “Mirai wo tsukuru” [Creating the future], an Internet program of Ibaraki Prefecture, http://bit.ly/miraimig
  • February 2016    Appearance on Rarejob, a website offering conversational English language lessons (appeared as a success story of someone who has learned English), http://bit.ly/rarejobmig
  • November 2016    NHK General TV, “Hirumae hotto” 


  • 2011    Worked as interpreter, translator, and coordinator for Douglas Purviance and Toru Atobe’s book, Mae ni susumu chikara [Discover 21]
  • 2014    Editorial supervisor and translator of Jim McNeely’s workbook, Aato obu piano conpingu [The Art of Comping—Piano, revised ed.] (ATN)
  • October 2016    Oversaw interpretation for the VJO big band workshop at the Yamaha Jazz Festival

Work with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

  • December 2009    Produced VJO’s 1st Japan tour in 20 years, since the days of the Mel Lewis Orchestra (Blue Note Tokyo)—the 4-day, 8-concert tour created a stir in the industry and the shows were completely sold out
  • January 2010    Appointed as Japanese representative of VJO
  • October 2010     Produced talk show for Douglas Purviance, one of the leaders of VJO
  • November 2010    Produced VJO big band workshop (the first in Japan), held during the group’s Japan tour
  • November 2010    Produced VJO’s 2nd Japan tour (November 26 @ Billboard Live Osaka; November 27–28 @ Billboard Live Tokyo)
  • June 2011    Associate producer/art director/guest pianist on the VJO album Forever Lasting—Live in Tokyo (nominated for a Grammy Award)
  • June 2011    Coordinated co-authored volume by Douglas Purviance and Toru Atobe, Discover 21 (originated with the talk show of Purviance, one VJO’s leaders)
  • December 2011    Produced 3rd VJO Japan tour (December 14–17 @ Billboard Live Tokyo, December 18 @ Billboard Live Osaka) and produced big band workshop
  • November 2012    Produced 4th VJO Japan tour (November 15 @ Billboard Live Osaka, November 16–18 @ Billboard Live Tokyo) and produced big band workshop
  • July 2013    Produced and played piano, 5th VJO Japan tour (July 24 @ Billboard Live Osaka, July 25 @ Billboard Live Tokyo) and produced 5 big band workshops in Tokyo and Aomori
  • June–August 2014    Associate producer and creative director for design on album OverTime—Music of Bob Brookmeyer
  • June 2014    Produced 6th VJO Japan tour (Billboard Live Osaka and Tokyo)
  • July 2015    Produced 7th VJO Japan tour (Billboard Live Osaka and Tokyo)
  • February 2016    Oversaw planning of VJO 50th anniversary week (in New York)
  • October 2016    Produced 8th VJO Japan tour (in addition to Billboard Live Osaka and Tokyo, VJO appeared in the Yamaha Jazz Festival in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture)
  • February 2017    Study tour to Elmhurst College Jazz Festival in Chicago as representative of VJO’s Asia education program