Known to be a “multifaceted composer”, Phang Kok Jun has a diverse repertoire that spans across many genres including concert music, theatre, and media. Drawing influences from a wide variety of musical styles as well as from growing up in the energetic and culturally diverse Singapore, Kok Jun has been described as a composer who “comfortably melds Chinese, Western and popular idioms to excellent effect”. An award-winning composer both locally and internationally, Kok Jun had been dubbed by The Straits Times as one of “30 rising stars under 30” in Singapore’s arts, entertainment and lifestyle. He is currently Composer-in-Residence of Ding Yi Music Company (DYMC), and is featured in major productions around the world, working with international orchestras, theatre companies, chamber groups, directors, conductors and soloists.
Kok Jun read music composition at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YSTCM), National University of Singapore and as well as the Peabody Conservatory of Music, both under full scholarship from YSTCM. Principal composition teachers include Eric Watson, Ho Chee Kong, Oscar Bettison and Kevin Puts.
Kok Jun is an exponent of chamber music and has worked with notable chamber groups such as Australian Brass Quintet, T’ang Quartet, I-sis Trio and the Forbidden City Chamber Orchestra. His work for DYMC where he holds a residency includes a diverse range of works that cater to the wide stylistic variety and instrumental combinations the ensemble offers. Most notably, he has been commissioned for the ensemble’s Chinese Chamber Music Festival; co-commissioned for the ensemble’s performance in the Esplanade 10th Anniversary celebrations; written for numerous of the ensemble’s overseas tours.
Besides chamber music, Kok Jun has also written for larger ensembles, with a repertoire that includes the symphony orchestra and concert band. More distinctively, he also writes for the Chinese orchestra, with regular collaborators including Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO) and Taipei Chinese Orchestra. In 2014 he was co-commissioned by the SCO to compose “Power Singapura”, a large-scale percussion item that broke the Guinness World Record for the Largest Chinese Drum Ensemble with 4557 performers.
Education, Theatre, and Collaborations
Seeing the importance of music education, Kok Jun has worked with the Esplanade’s Feed Your Imagination Series since 2010, scoring and producing shows that use elements of storytelling and animation to teach children about Chinese instruments and their music. The show has grown since its beginnings and from 2015-18 it became a musical theatre production while keeping to its core of educating music in an approachable manner. The 2019 instalment experimented with music and live art jamming, making music education a more tactile and organic process. Other Children’s Theatre credits include Playtime! The Magic Jungle (2012), Child’s Play (2017), Child's Play - The Story of Redhill (2018), Nü Wa Mends the Sky (2018 Shanghai production), Little Woods (2018), and The Rubbish Prince (2018-19 community action puppet theatre) and Child’s Play - The Story of the Banyan Tree (2019).
Besides theatre, Kok Jun is also open to all sorts of collaborations and has worked with filmmakers, dance groups, and pop singers.
Even though Kok Jun spends most of his time writing music nowadays, he still enjoys performing on the erhu (Chinese stringed fiddle) with a truly diverse repertoire - from traditional Chinese music with DYMC, to jazz improvisation with the Peabody Latin Jazz Ensemble.
Effectively bilingual in English and Mandarin Chinese, with experience in both Western and Chinese music, Kok Jun is regularly invited as a speaker for concerts, seminars, and symposiums. He has also organised workshops on various topics, including music appreciation, Singapore music, improvisation, as well as composition.
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