The American choral conductor and music pedagogue, Stephen M. Sano (Steve Sano), is a native of Palo Alto, California. His father, Iwao Peter Sano, is a second generation Japanese American who, as a second son, was adopted by relatives in Japan. The elder Sano describes his experiences in Japan as a member of the Japanese Army and Russian prisoner of war in his book One Thousand Days in Siberia. Sano's mother, Minako Sano, is a graduate of Tsuda College. She immigrated from Tokyo to California in the 1950's. Sano graduated from San Jose State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Piano Performance and Theory from the studio of Aiko Onishi and worked as Executive Director of the Peninsula Symphony before attending Stanford where he earned his Master of Arts and D.M.A. in Choral and Orchestral Conducting under the guidance of William Ramsey (1989-1994).
Since 1993, Stephen M. Sano is Professor of music and the Harold C. Schmidt director of choral studies at Stanford University. He holds Chair of the Stanford Department of Music where he directs the Stanford Chamber Chorale and Stanford Symphonic Chorus, teaches conducting, and offers seminars in kī hō'alu and North American taiko. A dedicated educator, he was the recipient of the 2004/2005 Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching at Stanford and the 2001 Asian American Faculty Award.
The Stanford Chamber Chorale is the University's select group of 24 undergraduate and graduate student singers which, under Sano's direction, records, tours annually, has collaborated with artists such as England's The Tallis Scholars; the Trinity College Choir of Cambridge; Chatham Baroque; Paco Peña; and the Kronos Quartet, recorded a collection of works for Kirke Mechem, and premiered works by Melissa Hui, Takeo Kudo, Jonathan Berger, Giancarlo Aquilanti, and Howard Helvey.
The Stanford Symphonic Chorus is the university's largest choir and includes students, faculty, staff and community members. In 2008, Stanford orchestra director, Jindong Cai, and Sano led the combined Stanford choirs, orchestra, Stanford Taiko, pianist Jon Nakamatsu and the St. Lawrence String Quartet to China on a goodwill tour prior to the Beijing Summer Olympics.
Stephen M. Sano has served on the conducting faculty of the Wilkes University Encore Music Festival of Pennsylvania, and regularly appears as guest conductor of the Peninsula Symphony Orchestra. He has studied at the Tanglewood Music Center and is in frequent demand as a master-class teacher, conductor, and adjudicator in choral music. To date, he has taught master-classes and conducted festival, honor, and collegiate choirs from over 20 states as well as choirs from Germany, Austria, England, Canada, Australia and Japan.
As a pianist, Stephen M. Sano has won numerous piano competitions, served as accompanist to many leading artists visiting the Bay Area, and as harpsichordist with the International Chamber Orchestra of Rome. His recordings in choral music can be heard on the Arsis Audio, Pictoria Records, and Stanford University labels. In the area of non-Western musics, his interests include Hawaiian choral music, the music of Queen Lili‘uokalani, ki ho‘alu (Hawaiian slack key guitar) and North American Taiko (Japanese American drumming). He is a recorded ki ho‘alu artist on the Daniel Ho Creations label, and his duet recordings with his teacher and mentor, master slack key artist Ozzie Kotani have been nominated for both the prestigious Na Hoku Hanohano Award (finalist, 2002) and the Hawaiian Music Award (2004). His most recent slack key recording, "Songs from the Taro Patch" was on the preliminary ballot for the 2008 Grammy Awards. He also teaches a seminar about the art form and actively supports the presentation of Hawaiian music at Stanford.