Tian Zhou Associate Professor of Composition


  • Composition

403 Music Practice Building
East Lansing, MI 48824


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Zhou Tian [pronounced JOH TEE-en; Zhou is his last name] is associate professor of composition at Michigan State University College of Music. 

Critically acclaimed for his lush and distinctive musical voice, Chinese-born American composer Zhou Tian seeks inspiration from different cultures and strives to mix them seamlessly into a musically satisfying combination for performers and audience alike. 

Described as “absolutely beautiful” and “utterly satisfying” (Fanfare), his compositions have been performed by leading orchestras and performers in the United States and abroad, such as the Pittsburgh Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, Houston Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Ireland’s RTÉ National Symphony, pianist Yuja Wang, violinist Chloë Hanslip, violist Roberto Díaz, flutist Jeffrey Khaner, Grammy-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux, Arditti, Dover, Jasper, and American string quartets, Empire Brass, Eroica Trio, and Tanglewood Festival Chorus. 

His recent work, Concerto for Orchestra—described as “stunning” and “tonal and engaging” (The Cincinnati Enquirer)—was commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony and premiered in its 2015-16 season finale, conducted by Music Director Louis Langrée. The work was recently released in the orchestra’s latest recording Concertos for Orchestra. His large-scale suite for soloists, orchestra, and chorus, The Grand Canal, was performed during a nationally televised celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. 

His music has been performed at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and broadcast on NPR and PBS. His 2016-17 season includes works as diverse as Broken Ink, a 30-minute, multi-movement meditation on Song Dynasty poetry premiered by Princeton Symphony under Rossen Milanov; Petals of Fire, a fierce and colorful rhapsody premiered by MSU Wind Symphony under Kevin Sedatole at the 2017 CBDNA National Convention; and Viaje (voyage) for flute and strings—featured on Performance Today™ on American Public Media—of which the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote “[it] fused the composer's Chinese American sensibility with the lore of ancient Spain so convincingly that the exotic flute solos for [Mimi] Stillman sounded like the most natural thing in the world.”

Zhou holds degrees from the Curtis Institute (B.M.), the Juilliard School (M.M.), and USC Thornton School of Music (D.M.A.). His principle teachers included Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Rouse, and Stephen Hartke. He is a first-prize winner of Washington International Composers Competition, ASCAP/Lotte Lehmann Art Song Competition, and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Glick Award. He has held Composition Fellowships from Tanglewood and Aspen. For a complete list of works and sound/video samples please visit ZhouTianMusic.com.

Note: following a traditional spelling of Chinese-American artists, the composer’s family name is Zhou and his given name is Tian. When only the composer’s last name is listed in the program, it should be listed as “Zhou.” The full name should be listed as “Zhou Tian.” He goes by Zhou (Joh), or formally, Dr. Zhou. Thank you.

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra presents Zhou Tian's Concerto for Orchestra:

Petals of Fire:

Red Trees, Wrinkled Cliffs: