Photo by Julian Box
By Julian Box
World-renowned composer Viet Cuong came and visited the symphonic band in November to talk about being a composer and how he has come so far in his career. Cuongs’s music has been performed in places such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and the Library of Congress.
Cuong received his Bachelor’s and Master's degrees from the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University. The Peabody Conservatory is a world-famous music program that prides itself on its staff, which is full of professional musicians and composers. Two of the composers that Cuong studied under while he was at Peabody were Pulitzer Prize winner Kevin Puts and Guggenheim fellow Oscar Bettison.
When he came to our class, he told us that he started composing in middle school where he used his free time as a percussionist to listen to the band carefully and figure out which musical instruments worked well together. From this, he began making music on a free software called Finale Notepad. One of the pieces he wrote was even performed by his eighth grade band at their spring concert.
Once he reached college, Cuong began to meet many performers and conductors. This was important because, according to him, the way to make that next step is by meeting these people and hoping to find someone to commision his music.
Since he left college, he says that he has become a much faster writer, although it does depend on who he is writing for. Now he is a professional composer and has begun to self publish his work. Cuong said that when you are a composer, you really have two options when it comes to publishing your work--you can either self-publish or have a major company publish it for you. While a major company might have more resources to promote your work, in this new modern age that we live in, self-promotion is much easier because of social media.