Kanoa is a bassist and cellist based in New York. Born in Japan, raised in Monterey, California, Kanoa began playing cello at age 10 after listening to her hero Oscar Pettiford for the first time. Encouraged to play the bass by her jazz pianist father, she shifted her focus to the bass at age 12 and started performing regularly in Monterey and the San Francisco Bay Area from age 13. She grew up learning songs from the Great American Songbook by playing with local musicians such as Dick Whittington, Bruce Forman, Dottie Dodgion, and Vince Lateano, and studying bass with the late John Shifflett.
Kanoa moved to New York City after completing high school to begin her studies at Columbia University, and through a joint exchange program she studied jazz bass at the Juilliard School for two years. At Columbia, her major was East Asian Languages and Cultures, where she focused on Japanese history and music. Through the school’s world music program, Kanoa played the koto and sho, and studied imperial court music from the 7th century called gagaku. Kanoa also hosted a regular jazz rotation on the university's acclaimed radio station, WKCR-FM.
Since graduating from college in May 2019, Kanoa has been performing and touring the U.S., Europe, and Canada with band leaders such as Joel Ross, Sasha Berliner, and María Grand. She has played at venues and festivals such as the Monterey Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival, SFJAZZ, the Jazz Gallery, Roulette, Umbria Jazz Festival, and more.
Kanoa has been on the faculty of Jazz Camp West and Stanford Jazz Workshop for the past three years, and has performed with artists such as Cecil McBee, Bruce Forman, Allison Miller, Roy McCurdy, Ingrid Jensen, and Pheeroan akLaff. She studied cello with Margie Dally, and bass with John Shifflett, Rufus Reid, Ben Wolfe, and Ugonna Okegwo.