Jon Jang (Composer, Pianist)

Jon Jang was born on March 11, 1954, in Los Angeles. After the tragic loss of his father in a two plane collision over the Grand Canyon in 1956, Jon and his brother and sister were raised single handedly by his mother in Palo Alto, California. Jon began piano lessons at the age of 19. After two years of study, Jang was accepted at the Oberlin conservatory of Music and awarded the Lydia Lord Davis scholarship. He studied piano with Wilbur Price and composition with Wendell Logan. After three years of study at the Conservatory, Jang received a BM degree in piano performance in 1978. Since then, Jang has followed his own path of creating music which has become "two flowers on a stem," a metaphor expressing the symbiotic relationship of his cultural identity as a Chinese American as well as his musical philosophy of honoring tradition and encouraging innovation. "My music does not come from the third stream, but the flowing stream."

As a composer, Jang has received commissions from the The Library of Congress, Kronos Quartet, Chanticleer and others. He has also received major grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet The Composer, Rockefeller, Creative Work Fund and Creative Capital. Jang composed the score for the dramatic adaptation of Maxine Hong Kingston's "The Woman Warrior" which was staged at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Huntington Theatre in Boston, and Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles.

Jon Jang was selected as the first alumnus from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music to receive the Distinguished Achievement Award from Oberlin College along with television comedy sitcom director/producer James Burrows. Recognizing Asian American's contributions and accomplishments in the field of arts and entertainment, Jon received the Golden Ring Award along with Chow Yan Fat, Joan Chen, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Wayne Wang in 1995. Jon has also been nominated three times for the Cal Arts Alpert in the Arts Award.

As a pianist and artistic director of ensembles, Jon Jang's ensembles have toured at major concert halls and music festivals in China, South Africa (1994), Europe, Canada, and the US. Four months after the elections to end apartheid in South Africa, Jang felt honored to be the first musician from San Francisco to be invited to perform in the Arts Alive Festival in Johannesburg. As part of the Beijing Trio featuring Max Roach, Jon performed in Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Chicago, Zurich, Berlin, Milan, and the Royal Festival Hall in London. In January of 2003, Jon Jang and James Newton Ensemble performed their composition ”When Sorrow Turns to Joy—A Musical Tribute to Paul Robeson” at Dartmouth College. Paul Robeson Jr. attended the concert and praised the work. The Banlieues Bleues Festival in Paris has invited the ensemble to perform the work on April 3, 2004. Last year, Jon and Jiebing Chen gave a special performance for Jiang Zemin, President of China, at a private luncheon hosted by Willie Brown, Mayor of San Francisco. With over 10 recordings as a leader or collaborator, Jang has recorded with distinguished artists such as Max Roach, James Newton, David Murray, Jiebing Chen, and Maxine Hong Kingston.

As an educator, Jon Jang taught the first courses in music by Asian Americans at the University of California at Berkeley 1992-95 and the University of California at Irvine in 1995. He has also served as a consultant for the Oberlin Conservatory of Music Contemporary Music Division in 1993. In 2003, Jang served on the artist advisory committee for the Ford Foundation to help launch a national initiative to provide direct support to artists.