From: Los Angeles, California. LA Opera: On Gold Mountain (2000, 2022); Orpheus (2014); The Wreck of the Miranda (2017); and the forthcoming The Intuition of Iphigenia.
Nathan Wang (王宗賢) is a Chinese-American pianist and composer for films, television, video games, musical theater, opera and the concert stage. A prolific and versatile composer for Hollywood and Asian cinema, he has scored nearly 300 films and television shows (spanning four of the six habitable continents), including projects in the U.S. for Steven Spielberg, Disney, Dreamworks, and Sony Pictures, and for Jackie Chan, PolyBona, Perfect World, China Film Group, EMP, Wanda, and Huayi Brothers in Asia. His compositions have been performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Shanghai Philharmonic, LA Opera, and the Chicago Symphony. Mr. Wang is the recipient of two Emmy Awards (Reefer Madness, Showtime, 2005; Pancho Barnes, PBS, 2011), a 1993 Singapore Grammy for Faye Wong's hit song “Wo Yuan Yi” [I'm Willing], and is a 2014 Taiwan Golden Horse Award nominee for his film score to director Ning Hao's No Man's Land.
A musical prodigy from an early age, Mr. Wang started classical piano lessons at age three at his mother's behest. His father later introduced him to jazz greats Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson, whose improvisation and style Mr. Wang quickly taught himself by ear. At only nine years old he performed Haydn's Keyboard Concerto in D with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.
Mr. Wang earned his first college degree before completing middle school. At age nine, he was accepted to the University of Southern California where he studied composition with famed choral composer Morten Lauridsen, graduating with a Bachelor of Music degree at age 13. After high school, he studied at Pomona College in California, double-majoring in Music and Biology. Mr. Wang was then admitted to Harvard Medical School but instead chose to accept a Fulbright Scholarship to attend the University of Oxford in England, where he earned an MST in Music.
Returning to Los Angeles from England, Mr. Wang began performing in clubs and piano bars in and around Hollywood. One evening, while playing in popular five-stars restaurant, he was approached by an enthusiastic fan named Geno Escarrega, who so happened to be the producer of the then-popular ABC TV drama China Beach. Mr. Escarrega adored Mr. Wang's piano stylings so much that he hired him to compose music for his show, and Mr. Wang's scoring career was thus born. He soon moved on to score several television series including Eek! The Cat (Fox), Toonsylvania (Dreamworks), and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures (FOX).
A friendship with film director James Moll led Mr. Wang to work with Steven Spielberg, scoring several of his productions including The Lost Children of Berlin (1997), Price for Peace (2002), Burma Bridge Busters (2003) and The Last Days, on which Mr. Wang collaborated with composer Hans Zimmer, and which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1999. Mr. Wang has since scored several more documentaries, including acclaimed aviation films One Six Right (2005) and Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club (L.A. Emmy Award, 2011). In 2004, preeminent composer John Williams hand-picked Mr. Wang to work with him co-scoring John Kerry's introductory film for the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
Prominent box office success soon followed. A partnership with director Andy Fickman, who knew Mr. Wang from their work together on Reefer Madness, yielded Dreamwork's She's the Man (with Amanda Bynes, 2006) and Disney box office hits The Game Plan (with Dwayne Johnson, 2007) and You Again (with Kristen Bell, 2010). Television producer Kevin Murphy (of Desperate Housewives fame) also tapped Mr. Wang to score his CW-TV dramas Valentine in 2008 and Hellcats in 2010.
LA Opera commissioned Mr. Wang to compose four operas: On Gold Mountain toured throughout California in 2000 and will be revived in 2022; the youth opera Orpheus (2014) introduced thousands of L.A. County high school students to opera for the first time; The Intuition of Iphigenia (2015) recently worshipped in Toronto with plans in the works to bring it to Los Angeles; and the In-School Opera The Wreck of the Miranda (2017).
In 1999 Mr. Wang teamed up with Amy Tan (best-selling author of The Joy Luck Club), composing a full orchestral score to accompany a staged reading of her children's book The Chinese Siamese Cat, which premiered at the Hollywood Bowl with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and was later performed by the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Hall. This led the San Francisco Symphony to commission Mr. Wang, to compose a musicalized version of Clement Clarke Moore's 'Twas The Night Before Christmas (2000), which the orchestra performed annually from 2000 to 2005.
Mr. Wang has also been commissioned to compose nine musicals, including 2009's Imelda which played Off Broadway in New York after a sold-out premiere run at East West Players in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo district. Playwright's Arena's Cinnamon Girl also premiered in L.A. in 2014 and was shortly thereafter performed in Beijing at the invitation of Peking University's Zhongguancun International Musical Festival.
Long a veteran of scoring Asian films including Jackie Chan's Rumble in the Bronx (1995) and The Myth (2005), Mr. Wang's oversea portfolio has expanded greatly in recent years. 2011 saw Paco Arango's Maktub (with Diego Peretti) open in Madrid, Spain. Director Ning Hao's Breakup Buddies, which Mr. Wang scored in 2014, had the second-highest opening weekend ever in China at US$94 million (Buddies is also the fourth-highest grossing Chinese film all-time at US$188 million). Ning Hao's No Man's Land, also a box office success, was an official selection of the Berlin Film Festival in 2014. Jackie Chan's Chinese Zodiac 2012 (also known as CZ12) stands at the twelfth all-time gross in China at over US$140 million. Mr. Wang has also scored films starring Wang Leehom, the "Justin Timberlake" of Asia (Love in Disguise, Taiwan, 2010), Zhang Ziyi of Crouching Tiger fame (Sophie's Revenge, China/Korea 2009, My Lucky Star 2013), Chinese pop star and director Su You Peng (Left Ear, 2015), Ji-Seob So, Aron Kwok, Norika Fujiwara and more.
An outstanding score for the 72-episode television series The Patriot Yue Fei (China, 2013) led the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra to commission Mr. Wang to compose Overture, Symphony and Suite for Erhu and Orchestra based on his themes and melodies from Yue Fei. The works were premiered in 2013 in Shanghai Concert Hall.
Mr. Wang's current and upcoming project list is comprised of several Asian films starring blockbuster actors, including Huang Xiao Ming and Yang Mi, respectively the "Brad Pitt" and "Angelina Jolie" of China (You Are My Sunshine), Gao Yuen Yuen (Let's Get Married), Guo Jing Ming (Tiny Times 4), and Chen SiChen in his thriller Detective Kang Chan. Additionally, Mr. Wang was commissioned by the China National Symphony Orchestra to compose both a symphony and a piano concerto (performed by renowned concert pianist Lang Lang) for a 2015 concert at the National Grand Theatre in Beijing.
Learn more at NathanWang.com.