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 commissioned and performed on six continents by musicians and ensembles such as the New York Philharmonic, Eighth Blackbird, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Sō Percussion, Alarm Will Sound, Atlanta Symphony, Sandbox Percussion, Albany Symphony, PRISM Quartet, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and Dallas Winds, among many others. Viet’s music has been featured in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, National Gallery of Art, and Library of Congress, and his works for wind ensemble have amassed hundreds of performances worldwide, including at Midwest, WASBE, and CBDNA conferences. He was recently featured in The Washington Post‘s “21 for ’21: Composers and performers who sound like tomorrow.”
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. This eclecticism extends to the range of musical groups he writes for, and he has worked with ensembles ranging from middle school bands to Grammy-winning orchestras and chamber groups. Viet is also passionate about bringing different facets of the contemporary music community together, and he will have opportunities to do so with an upcoming concerto for Eighth Blackbird with the United States Navy Band. He recently began 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 three years.
Viet is currently on the music theory and composition faculty at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He holds degrees in music composition from Princeton University (MFA/PhD), the Curtis Institute of Music (Artist Diploma), and the Peabody Conservatory (BM/MM). His mentors include Jennifer Higdon, David Serkin 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, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and at Dumbarton Oaks, where he served as the 2020 Early-Career Musician-in-Residence. 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.
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.
Photos by Aaron Jay Young