Cynthia Lee Wong
Composer, Video Artist
Cynthia Lee Wong has attracted international acclaim for her “shamelessly beautiful” music and devotion toward “not only the avant-garde audience, but…all music lovers” (Süddeutsche Zeitung). Wong has composed for orchestra, chamber ensemble, dance, voice, narrator, musical theater, and piano improvisation. She also pioneers a brand new genre – the animated music score.
Cynthia Lee Wong has attracted international acclaim for her “shamelessly beautiful” music and devotion toward “not only the avant-garde audience, but…all music lovers” (Süddeutsche Zeitung). Wong has composed for orchestra, chamber ensemble, dance, voice, narrator, musical theater, and piano improvisation. She also pioneers a brand new genre – the animated music score, as seen at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCW6iP_ylzdccK6hxLtSrYMg.
Her music has received praise for its “original[ity]” (Miami Herald), “buzzing excitement” (Peninsula Reviews),“sheer, oscillating textures” (The New York Times),“elegant and communicative grace” (Il Giornale di Vicenza),“impressive energy and drive” (The Boston Globe), and “unsettling…dark, eerie…highly individual sound universe” (The San Diego Union-Tribune).
In 2023, iSING! and Philadelphia Orchestra, together with soprano Esther Maureen Kelly and conductor Lio Kuokman, presented the North American premiere of Wong’s Snow on the River, which was hailed as a “standout [composition] of the night” (OperaWire). Snow on the River is an iSING! 2020 grand prizewinner. In 2020, it received a staged, multimedia world premiere with Suzhou Symphony Orchestra and zhonghu (alto erhu). The performance was broadcast worldwide as CCTV 4’s 2021 Lunar New Year production. Set to text by a poet in exile, Wong’s piece conveys isolation and loneliness, familiar themes during the pandemic.
In 2022, ROCO Chamber Orchestra world premiered Wong’s In A Blink of An Eye, which celebrates the wondrous, though ephemeral, nature of life. One life, even if short-lived, can impact others in extraordinary ways. This work is inspired by Chinese-American Iris Chang’s words: “You as ONE individual can change millions of lives. Think big.”
The same year, Wear Yellow Proudly presented Wong’s Six Gupta Songsat an event celebrating Asian women on the anniversary of the Atlanta shootings and International Women’s Day.
In 2021, Wong’s Unity in Diversity for chorus and orchestra received its world premiere. Featuring texts by Sara Teasdale (first woman to win a Pulitzer Poetry Prize), Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore (first Asian to win a Nobel Prize), and William Wordsworth, Unity in Diversityembraces humanitarian and environmental themes.
In 2016, No Guarantees, a musical comedy by Wong and librettist Richard Aellen, won funding from OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. In 2018, it received sold-out performances by University of Nevada’s Opera Theater Workshop and Nevada Conservatory Theatre.
From 2013-2015, Wong was selected for New Voices, a multi-organizational initiative with New World Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, and Boosey & Hawkes. As part of the residency, she received mentorship as well as chamber and orchestral commissions.
From 2010-2011, Wong received a Project 440 commission in which her piece Memoriam,dedicated to her late father along with all cancer survivors and caregivers, was premiered by Orpheus Chamber Orchestra on their opening night at Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall.
Past commissions and premieres include works for the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra del Teatro Olimpico, Portland Symphony, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Tanglewood Music Festival, La Jolla Music Society, New York State Music Teachers Association, Mivos Quartet, and Tokyo String Quartet.
A graduate of the accelerated 5-year B.M./M.M. program at Juilliard, Wong received her Ph.D. as an Enhanced Chancellor’s Fellow at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She studied composition with Samuel Adler, Milton Babbitt, David Del Tredici, David Olan, and Larry Thomas Bell, as well as piano with Tatyana Dudochkin, Frank Levy, and Martin Canin. Wong also participated in the BMI Musical Theater Workshop.
As an educator, Wong taught at Baruch College, City University of New York, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in China, and the New England Conservatory Preparatory School. She was also Master Teacher at National YoungArts Week 2018 and Artistic Director at YoungArts Miami Classical Instrumental 2019 program.