Known to be a multifaceted composer, Phang Kok Jun’s music transcends the concert halls, with a repertoire that also includes theatre, film, and other forms of media. An award-winning composer both locally and internationally, Kok Jun is influenced by a wide variety of musical styles, and has been described as a composer who “comfortably melds Chinese, Western and popular idioms to excellent effect”.
Interested in the unique relationship between music and storytelling, Kok Jun is constantly working with artists of various disciplines to discover new possibilities in music-making. He has had the privilege of being featured in major productions around the world, working with orchestras, theatre companies, chamber groups, directors, conductors, designers, 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. He is currently Composer-in-Residence of Ding Yi Music Company. 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 international chamber groups such as Australian Brass Quintet, T’ang Quartet, and the Forbidden City Chamber Orchestra. His work for DYMC where he holds a residency includes a diverse range of Chinese chamber pieces of various styles. Most notably, he has been commissioned for the ensemble’s overseas tours; co-commissioned for the ensemble’s performance in the Esplanade 10th Anniversary celebrations; as well as wrote the full length work - “Of Music and Sound” in 2020.
In 2018, his work for mixed chamber ensemble, "52407" was awarded first prize in the Popular Modern Music category of the inaugural New Classics Competition organised by the Moscow Conservatory.
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. From 2015-18, the show became a musical theatre production while keeping to its core. The 2019 instalment experimented with music and live art jamming and was released as an audio-illustration-picture book in 2020.
Kok Jun often works with different art mediums, including theatre, dance, film, and multimedia. Notable credits include Esplanade Huayi’s “Child’s Play” series (2017-19), “Nü Wa Mends the Sky” (2018 Shanghai), “The Rubbish Prince” (2018-19 puppet theatre), and “Share the Moment” (Marina Bay Countdown 2021). His venture into jingle writing won him the Scanteak-SCO Jingle Contest’s first prize and commendation prize in 2018.
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 all over the world. He has also organised workshops on various topics, including music appreciation, Singapore music, improvisation, as well as composition.