First Voice

Mission Statement

First Voice Artistic Directors Brenda Wong Aoki and Mark Izu

Brenda Wong Aoki and Mark Izu

First Voice’s mission is to create and develop the stories and music of people living between worlds. Critical to this mission is “personal experience” or “voice” as essential to authentic contemporary world culture. First Voice creates, produces, and presents interdisciplinary work that interprets the pluralistic nature of the American experience from a unique Japanese-American and Asian American cultural perspective.  Through its pursuit of this distinctive purpose, First Voice has played a central role in the evolution of the Bay Area’s arts community. For more information, see our history and timeline


First Voice was created to provide an organizational structure for the collaborations of Mark Izu and Brenda Wong Aoki, two prominent Asian American artists whose work since the 1970s has centered on creating contemporary American art by adapting non-Western theatrical, musical, and spoken word traditions.

First Voice’s creative work is drawn from a number of different influences including our history of social, political, and cultural activism in San Francisco’s Japantown and Chinatown; our relationship to the Hapa (mixed-race) community; our traditional training in Noh, Kyogen, and Gagaku; and our lifelong dedication to working with artists whose hearts connect deeply with ours.

First Voice continues to present our past work in repertory, at home in San Francisco and on tour in the U.S. and throughout the world. We have produced numerous spoken word and jazz recordings, and are at work on a publication imprint; our latest recording, Mermaid Meat, was released in 2005 in CD/book format and sold out its first printing.

Community Presence

First Voice performs regularly in theaters, schools and organizations in the communities of all 5 Bay Area counties!

Community Partners include:

San Francisco

  • Glide Memorial Church
  • Jewish Community Center of San Francisco
  • Nihonmachi Little Friends
  • Purple Moon Dance Company
  • Asian Art Museum
  • De Young Museum
  • SF Public Library
  • Lick Wilmerding School
  • University of San Francisco
  • Yoshi’s Jazz Club


  • Rhythmix Cultural Works
  • Berkeley Symphony


  • 142 Throckmorton Theatre
  • Marin County Day School

San Mateo

  • San Jose Jazz Festival
  • Stanford University
  • Peninsula Jewish Community Center

Contra Costa

  • Diablo Valley College

Support for First Voice

First Voice is funded by foundations and individuals.  See our list of funders and donors

Visit the First Voice Web site.


Calendar At-A-Glance

May 9-10 :: Asian American Storytelling Festival, Oakland and San Francisco, CA

May 28 :: Nationwide PBS Broadcasting
Local Bay Area Showtimes on KQED TV:
•  Don't Lose Your Soul: Sunday May 11, 9 pm • Sat May 17th, 6pm
•  Mrs Judo: Tues May 13, 11am • Wed May 28th 11pm • Thur May 29 5am
•  Stories from Tohoku: Tues 20, 11pm

June 16 :: The Queen's Garden performed by Sun Mee Chomet, The Southern Theatre, Minneapolis, MN


 Major Support Provided By

& Individual Donors


Donate to First Voice

Founded by Brenda Wong Aoki and Mark Izu in 1995, the mission of the non-profit First Voice is to create and develop the stories and music of people living between worlds. Critical to this mission is "personal experience" or "voice" as essential to authentic pan-world culture.


Contact Us

Phone: 415-221-0601
Email: aokizu @
Address: 43 Parsons St., San Francisco, CA, 94118

Now Booking Solo, Duet, and Ensemble Performances

Click here to watch video clips of Brenda Wong Aoki and Mark Izu's work