Homepage of Composer Koji Nakano

                                                                “A haunting work” -New York Times

Full of compelling ideas and imaginative instrumental writing" -Washington Post



Award-winning Japanese composer Koji Nakano’s music reflects the relationship between beauty, form and imperfection through the formality of music.  In 2008, he became the first composer to receive the S&R Washington Award Grand Prize.  Since then, Nakano has been recognized as one of the major voices among Asian composers of his generation.  As a composer and an educator, his musical activities have included community service and outreach to help bridge Eastern and Western musical cultures.  His recent work strives to merge both musical traditions and also make reference to theatre, philosophy, rituals and spirituality.  

Nakano has composed more than fifty works, including solo pieces, chamber works, symphonic movements, operas, and concerti for piano and violin. His compositions have been premiered in USA, Canada, Australia, Holland, Austria, Belgium, Lithuania, Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia.  His music has been performed at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, Jordan Hall, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Smithsonian Museum, Vilnius Congress Hall, Tokyo Wonder Site, Taiwan National Concert Hall, as well as Tanglewood, Aspen, Bowdoin and Vancouver music festivals. 


His music has been commissioned and performed by the Tapestry Opera, Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra, Guangxi Symphony Orchestra, Taipei Chinese Orchestra, Del Sol String Quartet, Ensemble Reconsil Vienna, Borealis String Quartet, Helikon Ensemble, Anermet String Quartet, San Francisco New Music Players, pianist Ning An, soprano Stacey Fraser, pipa virtuoso Hsi-Jong Wang, among others.  His portrait concert has been presented at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, at Tenri Cultural Institute of New York, at Northern Illinois University, and at Georgia State University as part of the College Music Society’s Fifty-First National Conference. 


In 2011, Del Sol String Quartet gave the US premiere of Time Song III: Reincarnation “The Birth of a Spirit” at the Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art.  His Scattered Clouds/Dramatic Sky for Audio Visual work in collaboration with filmmaker Tiffany Doesken made an official selection to the New Filmmakers New York and the Athens International Film and Video Festival in 2011.  In 2012, Chinese Taipei Orchestra gave the world premiered of Time Song IV: Diverse Voices commissioned by the TCO for its Annual Traditional Arts Festival.  In the fall of 2012, Worldscape for amplified pipa and pre-recorded sounds was commissioned and premiered by Hsi-Jong Wang for his solo recital as part of the Kuandu Arts Festival in Taiwan.

In addition to being the recipient of 2008 S&R Washington Award Grand Prize from the S&R Foundation, Nakano has also received composition awards, grants and fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Asian Cultural Council, Japan Society of Boston, Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs, National Gugak Center in Korea, Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan National Science Council, Tanglewood Music Center, Meet The Composer, ASCAP, American Music Center, University of California at San Diego, California State University at San Bernardino, New England Conservatory, New School University, Composers Conference at Wellesley College, Ernest Bloch Music Festival, as well as fellowships for residency from the Bellagio Center (Rockefeller Foundation), MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Millay Colony for the Arts, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Ucross Foundation, Ragdale Foundation, Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and Atlantic Center for the Arts. 


Nakano is the first recipient of the Toru Takemitsu Award in Composition from the Japan Society of Boston awarded annually to the most talented young composer in the Boston area.  In 2008, Nakano became the first composer to receive the S&R Washington Award Grand Prize from the S&R Foundation, which is awarded annually to the most talented young artist (in the fields of fine arts, music, drama, dance, photography and film), for his/her contributions to U.S.-Japanese relations. He is also the recipient of the 2010 White Flowers Residency for Composers at Yaddo. 

Nakano has been Composer in Residence at the University of Western Sydney in Australia, KOFOMI (“Composers Forum in Mittersill”) in Austria, the California State University at San Bernardino, the Japanese Spring Festival at the United Nations International School Theater (in NYC), the Royal University of Fine Arts in Cambodia, the Burapha University in Thailand, as well as the Thailand International Composition Festival. In 2012, Nakano was the featured composer for "The Arts Converge- Contemporary Art and Asian Musical Traditions” at Northern Illinois University, where his portrait concert was presented at the School of Music Recital Hall.  Nakano was the guest composer for the 2013 Taipei International New Music Festival in Taiwan, the 2014 ISCM New Music Miami Festival in USA, and the 2014 China-ASEAN Music Festival at Guangxi Arts Institute in China. 

Nakano has guest lectured at the University of California at Berkeley, the University of California at Davis, the University of Texas at Austin, Rice University, California State University at San Bernardino, Chapman University, Creighton University, Sheridan College, the University of Western Sydney, Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Korean National University of the Arts, National Taiwan University of Arts, Taipei Municipal University of Education, National Chiao Tung University, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Hong Kong Institute of Education, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music in Singapore, SEGi College in Malaysia, and Royal University of Fine Arts in Cambodia, as well as at Chulalongkorn, Mahidol, Rangsit, Silpakorn and Payap Universities in Thailand.

As a guide to his musical compositions, Dr. Stacey Fraser, Professor of Music at the California State University at San Bernardino, has written a paper entitled, Confluence of Musical Cultures in Time Song II, in which she examined the incorporation of a variety of Japanese vocal and instrumental techniques into western musical languages.  The paper was first presented as a lecture/recital by Dr. Fraser as part of the Music of Japan Today 2007 Symposium at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County and was featured again during the College Music Society’s Fiftieth National Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah in November 2007.  There was also an essay version of the paper, which was published by Cambridge Scholar Publishing in the UK as part of a book centered on the proceedings of the Music of Japan Today Symposium.


Nakano received his Bachelor’s Degree in composition with distinction, and Master's Degree in composition with academic honors and distinction, Pi Kappa Lambda, from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he was a scholarship student and studied with Lee Hyla and John Harbison.  At New England Conservatory, he was also the winner of composition competitions for the Honors Brass Quintet in 1998 and the Commencement Composition in 1997 and 1999.  From 2002 to 2003, he studied with Dutch composer Louis Andriessen in Amsterdam and at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague as the Japanese Government Overseas Study Program Artist.  In 2006, Nakano received his Ph.D. in composition from the University of California at San Diego, where he studied with Chinary Ung under the Gluck Composition Fellowship.


His upcoming projects include Time Song V: Mandala commissioned by the Jebediah Foundation New Music Commissions for the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and his second opera Spiritual Forest co-commissioned by the Annual Music and Performing Arts International Festival at Burapha University in Thailand, and the Annual Opera Workshop Seminar at California State University, San Bernardino. 


From 2008-2012, Nakano served as a Fellow Council member of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. As the co-founder of the Asian Young Musicians' Connection, he promotes new music by commissioning compositions from emerging Asian composers alongside worldwide professional musicians for its annual concert.  

In the winter quarter of 2013, Nakano was a visiting faculty at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he taught world music composition.  As a Guest Professor, he has previously taught composition at Taipei National University of the Arts, National Taiwan University of Arts, National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan.  

Nakano is currently the Coordinator for International Affairs in the Faculty of Music and Performing Arts at Burapha University in Thailand, where he also teaches composition as a full-time faculty member.  At Burapha, he is also the Director of International Programs for the Annual Music and Performing Arts International Festival and the Artistic Director of Experimental Thai Music and Dance Laboratory for Young Composers.   Nakano is a member of ASCAP.