Zhou Tian

Associate Professor of Composition

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 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), “lush, neo-impressionistic” (The Cincinnati Enquirer), and “a prime example of 21st-century global multiculturalism” (Broad Street Review), his music has been performed by leading orchestras and performers in the United States and abroad, such as the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Shanghai Symphony, RTÉ National Symphony, pianists Yuja Wang, Orion Weiss, cellist and Deutsche Grammophon Artist Jian Wang, violist Roberto Díaz, flutist Jeffrey Khaner, the Arditti, Dover, Jasper and American string quartets, the Empire Brass and Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

His recent work, Concerto for Orchestra—commissioned and recorded by the Cincinnati Symphony and Music Director Louis Langrée—was nominated for a 2018 GRAMMY Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. 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 repeatedly at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, and broadcast on NPR and PBS. 

Born into a musical family in Hangzhou, China, Zhou attended Shanghai Conservatory before immigrating to the United States. He 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, and has held Composition Fellowships from Tanglewood and Aspen.

Outside of the Classical arena, 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.

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.

  • Creative Work

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

    Petals of Fire (for wind ensemble)

    Red Trees, Wrinkled Cliffs (for guitar and string trio)

  • Contact




    403 Music Practice Building
    East Lansing, MI 48824