Called “alluring” and “wildly inventive” by The New York Times, the “irresistible” (San Francisco Chronicle) music of American composer Viet Cuong (b. 1990) has been performed on six continents by musicians and ensembles such as Sō Percussion, Eighth Blackbird, Alarm Will Sound, Sandbox Percussion, PRISM Quartet, Albany Symphony, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Minnesota Orchestra, Jacksonville Symphony, and Dallas Winds, among many others. Viet’s music has been featured in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and Library of Congress, and his works for wind ensemble have amassed hundreds of performances worldwide, including at Midwest, WASBE, and CBDNA conferences.
In his music Viet enjoys exploring the unexpected and whimsical, and he is often drawn to projects where he can make peculiar combinations and sounds feel enchanting or oddly satisfying. His recent works thus include a percussion quartet concerto, tuba concerto, snare drum solo, and, most recently, a concerto for two oboes. Viet is also passionate about bringing different facets of the contemporary music community together, and he will have opportunities to do so with two upcoming projects: a concerto for Eighth Blackbird with the United States Navy Band and a Sousa-inspired work for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. This fall he will begin his tenure as the California Symphony’s 2020-2023 Young American Composer-in-Residence, where he and the symphony will develop three new orchestral works together over the next three years.
Viet is currently finishing his PhD at Princeton University and was recently appointed the 2020 Early-Career Musician-in-Residence at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, D.C. He holds degrees in music composition from the Curtis Institute of Music (Artist Diploma), Princeton University (MFA), and the Peabody Conservatory (BM/MM). His mentors include Jennifer Higdon, David Ludwig, Donnacha Dennehy, Steve Mackey, Dan Trueman, Dmitri Tymoczko, Kevin Puts, and Oscar Bettison. During his studies, he held the Daniel W. Dietrich II Composition Fellowship at Curtis, Naumburg and Roger Sessions Fellowships at Princeton, and Evergreen House Foundation scholarship at Peabody, where he was also awarded the Peabody Alumni Award (the Valedictorian honor) and Gustav Klemm Award.
A scholarship student at the Aspen, Bowdoin, and Lake Champlain music festivals, Viet has been a fellow at the Orchestra of St. Luke’s DeGaetano Institute, Minnesota Orchestra Composers Institute, Mizzou International Composers Festival, Eighth Blackbird Creative Lab, Cabrillo Festival’s Young Composer Workshop, Cortona Sessions, and Copland House’s CULTIVATE workshop. Viet has held artist residencies at Copland House, Yaddo, Ucross, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and his music has been awarded the Barlow Endowment Commission, ASCAP Morton Gould Composers Award, Theodore Presser Foundation Award, Suzanne and Lee Ettelson Composers Award, Cortona Prize, New York Youth Symphony First Music Commission, Boston GuitarFest Composition Prize, and Walter Beeler Memorial Prize.
Photo by Phil Parsons
Viet pronounces his name “Vee-EHT Kwawng,” though “VEE-it” is also fine. Viet is his first name and Cuong is his family name.
Viet was born in California and grew up in Marietta, GA, where he attended Lassiter High School and was a member of the LHS marching and concert bands. Growing up, he played piano, percussion, and clarinet. He is a member of BMI, the American Composers Forum, and Blue Dot Collective, a group of composers who focus on writing adventurous new music for wind band. His brother’s name is Nam.