Zen Kuriyama

Conductor, Scholar, Singer

Zen Kuriyama (b. 1993)

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Ph.D., Musicology, Brandeis University (in progress)
M.S.M., Choral Conducting, University of Notre Dame ‘19
M.M., Voice Performance, Stony Brook University '17
B.A., Music, magna cum laude, University of Hawaii at Mānoa '15

Certificate in Georgian Chant, The Giorgi Mtatsmindeli University for Chant Studies (Tbilisi, Georgia) 

Member, American Choral Directors Association
Member, American Musicological Society
Member, North American British Music Studies Association


Zen Kuriyama is quickly building a unique reputation for himself in the vocal arts and in academia, owing to his versatility as a solo singer, chamber choir musician, choral conductor, and musicologist. Zen is currently completing coursework for the PhD in Musicology at Brandeis University.

A recent graduate of the University of Notre Dame (‘19), Zen holds a Master of Sacred Music degree in Choral Conducting, summa cum laude, and was awarded the Rev. Michael Driscoll Award for “achieving great success in the use of musical, liturgical, and pastoral gifts in service to church and community.” At Notre Dame, Zen was a Graduate Assistant Conductor with the Notre Dame Children's Choir for two years, under the direction of Dr Mark Doerries, and has toured with them in the United Kingdom. Zen studied conducting with Dr Carmen-Helena Téllez and had a secondary-area focus in musicology under the supervision of Dr Christopher Chowrimootoo.

A lyric baritone specializing in song literature, Zen holds a Master of Music degree in Voice Performance, summa cum laude, from Stony Brook University ('17), where he studied with Randall Scarlata. At Stony Brook—where he was the recipient of the Belari Scholarship in Voice—Zen held a dual Graduate Teaching Assistantship appointment: one in Musicology and the other in Choral Conducting. Zen served as the Graduate Assistant Conductor of the Stony Brook Chorale and Camerata Singers, under the direction of Shoshana Hershkowitz. He has been cast in leading roles with Stony Brook Opera, most notably as Junius in an innovative production of Benjamin Britten's The Rape of Lucretia, conducted by Timothy Long and directed by Ted Altschuler. Zen was an active vocal soloist with the award-winning Stony Brook Baroque Ensemble, under Arthur Haas. In addition to his applied voice studies, Zen studied choral conducting with Shoshana Hershkowitz, and coached song repertoire and orchestral conducting with Timothy Long. Zen earned a B.A. in Music, magna cum laude, from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa ('15), where he studied both voice and musicology, under the tutelage of Dr. Maya Hoover, Dr. Miguel Felipe, and Dr. Kate McQuiston. 

A 2014 Presser Scholar, Zen engaged in graduate-level study in musicology whilst still an undergraduate, and has guest lectured at the college level on the works of Benjamin Britten and Gerald Finzi. Current research interests include the English Musical Renaissance, hermeneutics, theology, and affect in the ritualizations of Bach’s Passions, the works of Gerald Finzi, and music, worship, and liturgical practice of the Roman Catholic Church. A recipient of the Alice Martin Travel Scholarship, Zen travelled to Georgia (the country in Eurasia) in May 2018 where he studied Georgian Orthodox Church chant and traditional Georgian folk music at the Institute for Ecclesiastical Chant in Tbilisi and at the music conservatory in Telavi, Kakheti. 

A rising scholar on the life and music of Gerald Finzi, Zen was awarded a Graduate Summer Travel & Research Grant from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, and spent July 2018 in the U.K. studying the unfinished/unpublished manuscripts and personal letters of Finzi at the University of Reading, the University of St. Andrews, the University of Oxford, and The Royal College of Music. In November 2018, Zen presented his paper—"Gerald Finzi and the English Musical Renaissance"—at Durham University's "English Musical Renaissance and the Church" Conference, sponsored by the Royal Musical Association and the Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies at Durham University (U.K.), and funded by a Professional Development Grant from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies. His article, "Reshaping Musical History: Gerald Finzi and the English Musical Renaissance", was featured in the December 2018 publication of The Finzi Journal. Zen also gave a talk on Finzi at St Mary’s College (Notre Dame, IN) on February 4, 2019, as part of the Department of Music’s Recital Forum Series. In October 2019, Zen presented his research on the relationship between Finzi and Cedric Thorpe Davie at the University of St Andrews (Scotland) and provided the program notes for Musica Sacra New York’s October 21 concert, “Music for a Gothic Space,” at the Cathedral of St John the Divine, NYC.

As a professional chamber choir singer, Zen has been hired to perform at Carnegie Hall and throughout the Tri-state area. In April 2019, Zen was part of a sextet that performed Philip Glass’ A Madrigal Opera (conducted by Carmen-Helena Téllez) at the University of Notre Dame, with the composer in attendance. In the summer of 2017, Zen was a Conducting Apprentice at Berkshire Choral International, and had the privilege of working on Mahler Symphony #8 with Kent Tritle and the Verdi Requiem with Tom Hall. Zen has participated in conducting masterclasses with Tom Hall, Joseph Flummerfelt, Walter Marzilli, Kimberly Dunn Adams, and Alastair Willis. Zen has attended the Amherst Early Music Festival's Ensemble Singing Intensive and was a 2016 Singing Fellow at the Yale School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival's Chamber Choir & Choral Conducting Workshop, under Simon Carrington. He has also been a three-time full scholarship recipient to the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival.

A dedicated church musician with a passion for liturgy and hymnody, Zen is the newly-appointed Choir Director at The Congregational Church of Weston, having recently served as Choir Director at Grace United Methodist Church in South Bend, IN (2017-2019). Other liturgical music positions include staff singer/assistant conductor at St. Peter's By-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Bay Shore, NY, (2015-2017) and baritone section leader at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu (2013-2015). For excellence in the study of music in the State of Hawaii, Zen received the Clarence Glick Classical Music Foundation Grant, and was a winner in the Morning Music Club of Honolulu Scholarship Competition. Zen is a proud member of the American Choral Directors Association, the American Musicological Society, and the North American British Music Studies Association.

For fun and recreation, Zen is an avid runner, hiker and writer of free-verse poetry; his poem, "Enter, Friend", was a 2017 Third Prize winner in the 'Sanctuary & Exile Poetry Contest' and was read during a concert series in San Francisco in March 2017. 

© Zen Kuriyama 2019