Su Lian Tan

Professor of Music

 work(802) 443-5224
 W 11:00am-12:30pm; TH 9:30-11:00 a.m.
 Mahaney Center for the Arts 308

Su Lian Tan is a much sought after flutist and composer. Her music has been described as “the stunner of the evening,” (Washington Post) and “…refined, cultured compositions… Rewarding for everyone...A must-own for flutists and flute enthusiasts” (Fanfare Magazine). Making her first recordings at the age of 14, she has recently been featured in Flute Talk and the American Record Guide. Tan has been commissioned by groups such as the Grammy-winning Takacs String Quartet, Da Capo Chamber Players, and the Meridian Arts Ensemble. Recordings of her music include a recent release, Grand Theft and other Felonies, which features Carol Wincenc performing Autumn Lute Song and Tan as a flutist. Another recent release Music by Su Lian Tan also on the ARSIS label, contains Jamaica’s Songs, written in collaboration with author Jamaica Kincaid. Her intermedia chamber opera Lotus Lives was performed to great acclaim in the last two seasons, as were Revelations, dedicated to Sophie Shao (cellist), and Ming, a concerto composed for virtuoso trumpet player Joe Burgstaller, the premier performance occurring in Singapore. New commissions include a concerto for Darrett Adkins, cellist, and an orchestral fanfare for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.  A current recording project features the Jupiter String Quartet and Bruce Brubaker. Her music is published by ECS Publishing and Theodore Presser.

Su Lian Tan has received a Discovery Grant from the Opera Grants for Female Composers program  to  support development of her opera composition  Lotus Lives. The grant was announced recently by OPERA America, the national service organization for opera, and was  made possible through the generosity of The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. This project was one of 7  selected from among 61 applicants.    

Also a dedicated teacher, Tan is Professor of Music at Middlebury College where she continues to be a mentor to talented young musicians. She has given talks, seminars and master-classes at the Capitol Center, NH, the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies, and the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music in Singapore, to name a few. She has received numerous accolades and citations for teaching as well as for her music, including awards from ASCAP and the Naumburg Foundation. She holds degrees from the Trinity College, London (F.T.C.L.), Bennington College (B.A.), The Juilliard School (M.M.) and Princeton University (Ph.D.).



Trumpet virtuoso Joe Burgstaller performed the world premier of Ming (Brush Strokes), by Su Lian Tan, on 27 October 2012 at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, Singapore .


The Straits Times, Singapore 28 Oct 2012

".... A highlight was the world premiere of Malaysian-American composer Su Lian Tan's Ming, an evocation of Chinese brush-painted landscapes, its placid waters, gnarled trees, rugged mountains and soaring birds. Partnered by pianist Low Shao Suan, this atmospheric score ambled from impressionistic half-lights to a Messiaen-like timeless calm. Burgstaller's part used the mute liberally, to temper the bluesy timbre before going full voice on a song."


"Flute Talk Magazine," October, 2010

“Particularly alluring…began in an angular Western style with a balance of vehemence and serenity” The New York Times

“The stunner of the evening was Su Lian Tan’s Life In Wayang”… The Washington Post

“…a crystal-like evocation of autumn…began in a serene meditation…filling a whole sky with the memory of creation….” The Rutland Gazette




Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

FYSE 1080 - Mozart Operas      

Mozart Operas: Swains, Countesses, and Magic Flutes
In this seminar we will delve into how opera comes about, its place in our culture, and its aesthetic, with our explorations centering on musical components. We will focus on the text and music of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and The Magic Flute. The main work will be viewing, listening to, and understanding these great works, with excursions into operas old and new. Special attention will be given to writing, varying from response and research papers to some creative writing. Assignments will be given throughout the semester in the various disciplines that come together in operas. We will have informal presentations of your creative work in class and, if possible, gather them in a public performance late in the semester. Music background preferred. 3 hrs. sem. ART CW EUR

Fall 2014

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FYSE 1488 - European and Asian Opera      

Pavilions, Serpents, and High Cs: European and Asian Opera
Opera is often regarded as one of the highest forms of dramatic art, a product of the creative collaboration between composer and librettist, cultural idiom, and dramatic narrative. When Mozart, Monteverdi, Puccini, and Asian composers came together with their librettist counterparts, provocative operas came into being. In this seminar we will study operatic ventures from the early baroque and Mozart, to traditional music theater pieces from China and Southeast Asia. We will delve into issues of prosody and word painting through analysis. We will also engage in discussions, research, and creative projects in the form of song writing, to explore how opera comes about and its place in our culture. (Ability to read music and perform an instrument or voice recommended). 3 hrs. sem. ART CMP CW

Fall 2016

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MUSC 0160 - Music Theory I: Fundamentals      

Music Theory I: Fundamentals
This course is an introduction to the basic elements and theoretical concepts of Western music. We will focus on such topics as basic keyboard skills, sight singing, musical notation, rhythm, and harmony and form. Theoretical work and drills will be combined with compositional and performance projects. The goal of the course is to expand students’ musical intuition and skill and to provide the technical basis for further music study. No prior musical experience is required. (Students who wish to take upper-level composition or music theory courses must either complete this course or pass a theory and musicianship test administered by the department to demonstrate equivalent experience.) (Formerly MUSC 0109). 2.5 hrs. lect. ART

Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018

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MUSC 0209 - Music I      

Music I
Music I focuses on the materials and grammar of music through compositional exercises. As part of these explorations, we will examine the elements of harmony (scales, triads and seventh chords), notation, rhythm, polyrhythm, binary and ternary forms, two-voice counterpoint, variation, transposition, as well as skills in conducting, analysis, ear-training, and sight-singing. Students will write short pieces for a variety of instruments and ensembles, notate their pieces, and rehearse and perform them, thereby learning about music through discovery and observation. The assignments are designed for students with or without compositional experience. (Ability to play an instrument or sing; MUSC 0160, or passing score on the MUSC 0160 placement exam) 3 hrs. lect./1 hr. lab. ART

Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018

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MUSC 0210 - Music II      

Music II
This course is a continuation of MUSC 0209. While using the same format, including composing and labs, as in MUSC 0209, the course covers elements of modality (western and non-western), functional harmony, heterophony, fugal processes, strophic forms, melodic analysis, serial processes, and extensions of tonality and atonality. (MUSC 0209 or by permission) 3 hrs. lect./1 hr. lab. ART

Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019

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MUSC 0240 - Performing Chamber Music      

Performing Chamber Music
In this course for intermediate to advanced performers we will explore the art of collaborative music making in the classical tradition. Students will form small vocal and instrumental ensembles (2–6 players) at the beginning of the semester or may enroll in the course as an established ensemble. Repertoire will be determined in collaboration with instructor. Weekly coaching sessions for each group and master classes for all groups will culminate in at least one end-of-semester performance and writing assignment. In addition to technical performance issues, master classes and readings will consider group dynamics, rehearsal techniques, and interpersonal aspects of musical collaboration. Although previous chamber music experience is not required, students should be experienced performers of notation-based music. 3 hrs. lect/disc. ART

Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018

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MUSC 0250 - Performance Art      

Performance Art
When different arts merge in unusual and provocative ways, performance art is created. This seminar will engage in discussions, research, and creative projects regarding performance art—how it comes about, its place in our culture, and its aesthetic. Our focus and explorations will center on musical components. We will delve into the roots of performance art in the early nineteenth-century in writing and music, including work from Berlioz, Cage, Kagel, the Talking Heads, Laurie Anderson, Reich, and Glass concluding with the music/performance art of today. In addition, we will discuss the processes behind performance art, and create some of our own, culminating in a ‘concert’ of work. (A knowledge of an instrument or voice is desirable, though not required) 3 hrs. lect ART

Spring 2019

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MUSC 0309 - Advanced Composition I      

Advanced Composition
In this course we will focus on writing for string quartet, brass quintet, a cappella singing, piano, or performance art and involve issues of technique, style, and practical considerations, as well as study of selected elements of the literature. The course will culminate with a reading of student works by a professional ensemble or solo performer. This semester we focus on composing for the string quartet. We will discuss a variety of string techniques as well as issues of form and orchestration. We will listen to important works for that medium and discuss the styles from the Classical period to this century. Students will compose exercises, leading to a substantial string quartet to be "read" by the Jupiter String Quartet. (MUSC 0209 and 0210 or approval of instructor). 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Fall 2018

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MUSC 0500 - Independent Study      

Independent Study
Admission by approval. Please consult published departmental guidelines and paragraph below.

Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019

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MUSC 0704 - Senior Work      

Senior Work
Senior work is not required of all music majors and joint majors. However, students interested in and eligible for departmental honors (see guideline above, in "Departmental Honors" section) may propose one or two-semester Senior Work projects. Projects may be in history, composition, theory, ethnomusicology, performance, or electronic music, and should culminate in a written presentation, a public performance, or a combination of the two. MUSC0704 does not count as a course toward fulfillment of the music major.

Project and budget proposals for Independent Study and Senior Work should be submitted by the previous April 1 for fall and winter term projects, and the previous October 15 for spring term projects. Budget proposals will not be considered after those dates. Project proposals will be considered after the deadline but are more likely not to be approved due to previous commitments of faculty advisors or other scheduling reasons.

Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019

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Activities and Pursuits


Department of Music

Mahaney Center for the Arts
72 Porter Field Road
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753