Nathan Cheung

Hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area, Dr. Nathan Cheung is known for his versatility as a soloist, collaborator, composer, and improviser. These roles are fueled by a life-long passion to discover artistry and accessibility—to understand the power of great music and tap into its potential to resonate with people from all walks of life. His education has aided him significantly in strengthening these endeavors, culminating in degrees from Stanford University (BA Music with honors, concentrations in Piano Performance and Composition) and the Eastman School of Music (DMA, MM, Piano Performance and Literature; MM, Accompanying and Chamber Music). His primary instructors during his studies were Natalya Antonova, Nelita True, Jean Barr, and Thomas Schultz, to each of whom he owes immensely in shaping his core pianism and values.

Dr. Cheung has claimed the 1st prize in the 2019 Los Angeles International Piano Competition and has won top prizes in other international competitions including the Seattle International Piano CompetitionWideman International Piano Competition, Lewisville Lake Symphony International Competition, and Thousand Islands International Piano Competition. He is also a winner of the Aspen Concerto Competition, the American Prize concerto division, the Music Teacher’s Association of California Solo Competition, and the concerto competitions at both the Eastman School and Stanford University. His performances have taken him to established venues such as Bing Concert Hall, the Mondavi Center, and the Schoenberg Center in Vienna. In the realm of the solo recital, Nathan enjoys producing themed concerts as a means to draw musical comparisons. Prior concerts have featured the theme of Water and Fire, the similarity of Schubert’s attacca Wanderer Fantasy and Szymanowski’s attacca Third Piano Sonata, and the underperformed works by George Walker and Joseph Achron.

His love of making music with others spurs his robust activity as a collaborative pianist. Nathan’s achievements include appearances in Music Academy of the West, SongFest, and the Aspen Music Festival as a collaborative piano fellow in all three festivals. Constantly appearing in concert with highly trained instrumentalists and vocalists alike, Nathan has been twice distinguished by Eastman’s Excellence in Accompanying Award. He is adept at navigating across a variety of situations including opera run-throughs, new music ensembles, improvised performances, and the accompanying of Chinese instruments. This wealth of experience has thus allowed him to transgress boundaries of genre, instrumentation, and culture.

As a composer, Nathan has had his miniatures featured in the United States Open Music Competition and his String Quartet premiered by the St. Lawrence String Quartet. During his studies with Jaroslaw Kapuscinski and Erik Ulman at Stanford, he was exposed to a wide array of compositional processes. His own compositional style seeks not to break norms, but rather to further explore the harmonic language embodied by the Impressionists, the late Romantics, and jazz. His output consists also of works for non-Western instruments, such as the Chinese Liuqin and Korean Samulnori percussion.

In this vein, Cheung’s improvisations also draw from an eclectic array of styles. A rare recipient of Eastman’s Advanced Diploma in the Art of Improvisation, Cheung maintains a deep interest in music outside of the classical canon and continues to actively explore meaningful ways in which different genres can inform each other. He gladly welcomes all requests for Happy Birthday in the key and style of their choice as a means for style imitation study.

Nathan is also a member of Happy Dog Duo with his longtime piano partner and friend, Eric Tran. Together, they won the 1st Prize and the Abild American Prize at the 2017 Ellis Duo Piano Competition, hosted by the National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC). They then continued to win the inaugural MTNA Stecher-Horowitz Two Piano Competition and the Ohio International Duet and Duo Competition in 2018. Known for their innovative programming, fully memorized performances, and unabashed humor, Happy Dog Duo aims to bring joy and a fresh perspective to the four-hands repertoire.

Currently, Dr. Cheung is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Collaborative Piano at Indiana University Bloomington where he coaches students on the art of collaborative piano and assumes staff pianist roles. Dr. Cheung also maintains a small private studio online and has had students win top prizes in the United States Open Music Competition.