Zhou Tian 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. 

Grammy-nominated Chinese-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. His music — described as “absolutely beautiful,” “utterly satisfying” (Fanfare), “stunning...lush, neo-impressionistic” (The Cincinnati Enquirer) and “a prime example of 21st-century global multiculturalism” — has been performed by leading orchestras and soloists in the United States and abroad. In 2018, his “Concerto for Orchestra” — commissioned and recorded by the Cincinnati Symphony and Music Director Louis Langrée — earned him a GRAMMY Award nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.

Born into a musical family in the 1980s in Hangzhou, Zhou came of age in a new China marked by economic reforms, and was in the United States by his 20th birthday. Trained at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music (B.M.), New York’s Juilliard School (M.M.), and the University of Southern California (D.M.A.), he studied with some of America’s finest composers, such as Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Rouse and Stephen Hartke. 

His recent premieres and commissions include Cello Concerto “Flowing Sleeves” (by cellist Jian Wang), “Transcend” (by 13 American orchestras and institutions, including the Utah Symphony, Stanford University, and MSU, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad's completion), “Trace” (by the Cincinnati Symphony and Mei-Ann Chen), Violin Concerto (by Grammy nominated violinist Caroline Goulding), “Viaje” (by National Endowment for the Arts), and “The Palace of Nine Perfections” (by the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä). For 2019-20 season, he was appointed Artist-in-Residence with the Shanghai Symphony.

Other noted performances have come from the Pittsburgh Symphony, Houston Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, RTÉ National Symphony, Singapore Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Shanghai Symphony, China Philharmonic, and acclaimed musicians such as pianists Yuja Wang and Orion Weiss, violist Roberto Díaz, violinists Chloë Hanslip and Caroline Goulding, flutist Jeffrey Khaner, the Arditti, Dover, Jasper and American string quartets, the Empire Brass, and Tanglewood Festival Chorus. His band works have been performed by leading universities in the US. His music has been performed at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C., National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, and at Tanglewood and Aspen Festivals, where he held Composition Fellowships.  

Outside of the Classical arena, Dr. Zhou has composed music for film, dance, and crossover. His score for feature film Eternal Beloved received critical acclaim since its premiere at 2009 Shanghai International Film Festival. His Jazz-inspired works have received honors from the Julius Hemphill International Jazz Composition Awards and Henri Mancini Institute. He plays piano professionally and occasionally conducts his own works. For a complete list of works and sound/video samples please visit ZhouTianMusic.com.

“Works like...Mr. Zhou’s orchestral piece accomplish two important things: They remind us of how we got from there to here, and they refine that history by paying belated tribute to contributors who might otherwise be forgotten.”

—The Wall Street Journal 


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:


Composer Zhou Tian on Transcend: