Austin Huang, Ph. D.
Honorary Affiliate Professor
WWU Department of Music
- Artistic Director, Bellingham Chinese Culture Festival
- Chair, Bellingham Chinese Culture Festival Committee
- President, Pacific Northwest Cultural Exchange Council
Austin Huang started composing in 2007 and has since composed 14 pieces, which have been performed in both the US and China.
Austin Huang is an engineer and composer. Rigorous training in engineering has helped him tremendously in music composing and he sees many similarities between writing a dissertation and composing a concerto.
Born in northeast China in a small village away from any major cities, Austin's parents were governement workers at an oil shale mine owned by the national government. He moved twice during his childhood when his parents were assigned to different jobs at different locations, however, both times these relocations were all within rural northeast China. He did not have the opportunity for formal education in music until his father fell ill when he was 15 years old. At that time he had a chance to visit Shenyang, the biggest city in northeast China, where his father was hospitalized. His older brother was afraid to take the journey, but Austin's adventurous spirit was rewarded by his mother who gave him enough money to buy a small gift for himself. He chose an erhu - a traditional Chinese instrument - and trained himself to play it.
His musical adventure really started when he was 16 years old, when he transferred to a railroad school in the town of Chaoyang, the capital of the county Huinan of Jilin Province. There he was selected to join the student performing arts group, and learned to play the Banhu and also studied violin with a professional musician. When he was 17 the county organized a student performing arts group. He auditioned and was selected to join the orchestra as violin and principal Banhu player. There he learned stage performance and started to build his knowledge and experience with western instruments. At this time, China was in the midst of the Cultural Revolution and all graduates were sent to the country to do farm work. However, when he graduated from school, he and his colleagues in the student performing arts group were all accepted as a group by a commune. Performing while still officially peasant workers in the rural area the group performed almost full time for three years. During those three years, they traveled and played a wide variety of operas, programs and repertoires in various locations.
Still, because he was handicapped by limited resources and restricted opportunities, he did not think that he would ever be able to pursue music as a career. When China re-opened college admission through national examination in 1977 he was admitted into China University of Mining and obtained a BS degree in Mining Engineering in 1982. In the same year, he passed a national exam and was admitted into a Chinese Education Ministry-sponsored graduate study program in the United States. In 1984, the composer began graduate study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA and obtained both MS and Ph.D. degrees in Rock Mechanics of Geological Engineering in 1989 and 1990, respectively. Parallel with his career in engineering, his understanding and enjoyment of western classical music increased. He retooled his violin skills and undertook piano study under the guidance of a piano teacher as preparation for future composing. Since fall 2005, he has been organizing the biennial Chinese Cultural Festival New Year Concert as Artistic Director. The concert features unique Chinese music in conjunction with a western symphonic orchestra. Introducing Asian music and culture to American people is his passion– a practice which has received warm welcome. Through his work organizing these events, Dr. Huang came to understand the obvious gaps created by the lack of written Chinese works available for performance to Western orchestras. He decided and began his study of Western music theory and composition in 2006 through private lessons with Dr. Roger Briggs, Western Washington University music professor, composer, conductor of the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra and was recently added as an Honorary Affiliate Professor of Music at Western Washington University. His goal is to use Western musical expression to perform Chinese music and convey its spirit.
Works in his current collection from classical to contemporary:
- Symphony Orchestra - Rebellion against haven - 2012
- String, wind and brass Septet Xingjiang Dance - 2012
- Overture “Joy and Prosper”-Symphonic Northeast China Opera - 2011
- String, wind and piano Septet “Ah Li Shan Girls” - 2011
- Jinghu and Jingerhu double concerto “Kongfu” - 2011
- Tenor Solo with Choir - “Love Republic” 100 years - 2011
- Soprano Solo - “Motherland, my dear mother” - 2010
- Symphony Orchestra - Monkey King’s three Strikes defeating Whitebone Demon - 2010
- Symphony Orchestra - A Flower - 2009
- Symphony Orchestra - Peking Opera “Drunken Royal “ - 2009
- Piano Trio with violin and cello - “San Shi Li Pu” - 2009
- Piano Fugue and Prelude - 2009
- Cello concerto “Chinese Girl” - 2008
- String Quartet “Love my Hometown” 2007