Grade 9 Student Composer Debuts “Cyclonic Counterpoint”

Grade 9 student Houtian Zhong is no stranger to music composition. Despite being only 14 years old, he has been writing music for more than five years and has won awards and acclaim for some of his pieces.

“The interest came from my music theory learning as part of my piano lessons,” he says. “During the process, I am increasingly thrilled by the possibility of creating various types of music, from solo instrument, to small ensembles, and even full orchestra.”

He works outside of SMUS with composer Christine Donkin as his composition teacher, and credits his time spent learning music history, harmony and analysis through The Royal Conservatory of Music Certificate Program as beneficial to his composition experience.

Among his writing awards includes finishing first place in his age group in the 2018 Murray Adaskin Composition Competition (“The Ride of Attila”) and the 2019 BC Registered Music Teachers’ Association (BCRMTA) Music Writing Competition (“Atlantis Overture”). He also finished second place in his age group in the 2019 Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Association Student Composer Competition (“Atlantis Overture”) and the 2020 BC Music Writing Competition (“Kunlun Alps: A Winter Ballad.”)

This school year he has worked with fellow musicians at the Senior School to debut his latest piece, “Cyclonic Counterpoint,” which you can watch above. 

“This piece was one he showed me. I was stunned at how good it is,” says Donna Williams, SMUS Head of Music and Senior School strings teacher. “I’ve had all my grades play it because it’s a really good piece. Houtian’s piece is requested a lot from the students because it’s a very fun piece for them to play.”

His Grade 9 strings classmates commended for his writing and conducting prowess, after getting to enjoy “Cyclonic Counterpoint,” saying it was “well-composed” and “full of energy.”

“This piece is really intricate, and I really like the way it pieces together. I especially really like the dynamics,” says Grade 9 student Harper May.

“I really enjoyed the fact that the tempo and the dynamics really complement each other, ultimately creating an action-packed and nice piece,” says Grade 9 student Saba Shariaty.

Adds Donna: “For a Grade 9 student, it is remarkable that he is at the stage he is at. He’s  very quiet and unassuming, and in his composition he knows what he wants; he’s very clear in his mind what it should sound like. … I believe 100% in the ensemble; being part of a team where you’re one drop in an ocean, not a bunch of individual raindrops. Houtian understands this and is able to compose something that builds upon that ocean.”

Congratulations and great work, Houtian!


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