Nirmita Composer Insitute




Chinary Ung, Co-founder, Artistic Director
Susan Ung, Co-founder, Chair Performance Area
Sean Heim, Curriculum Director
Koji Nakano, General Manager

Mission Statement:
The Nirmita Composers Institute is dedicated to nurturing the next generation of Cambodian composers in both the Khmer traditional and Western art music genres. NCI also encourages cultural exchange among nations in the region and throughout the global community.



In July 2016, award-winning Cambodian-American composer Chinary Ung led a two-week workshop in Siem Reap, in collaboration with Cambodian Living Arts and the Nirmita Composers Institute. This program aimed to spark new creativity in young composers from Cambodia and the wider Mekong region. It was followed by workshops in 2017, in Bangkok, and in 2020 in Phnom Penh. Since 2017, Nirmita has partnered with the Savong Foundation, Cambodia to expand its educational opportunities in the region.

Chinary Ung and Cambodian Living Arts believe that the next step in the region for the development of the arts, and of music particularly, is to generate more opportunities for artists to create. In Ung’s words, “this is the era where investing in 20-30 people, producing 200-300 pieces, could fuel even greater and more powerful creativity for the next generation.”

These workshops invite emerging composers and traditional musicians mostly from Southeast Asia to work with a world-class faculty of composers and performers from 8 countries around Asia and the USA. Mentors lead programs that include sessions in creativity and technical skills, rehearsals, recordings, and performances.

Chinary Ung said,
“The Nirmita Composers Workshop is part of a long journey, which CLA and RUFA have been working towards for many years. The students we will work with in the coming weeks are the future of musical creativity and innovation here - and I hope that the effects of this project will be enduring, and resonate throughout the region. But it is not only the students who will learn - the faculty members I hope will also be inspired, and return to their universities and their own musical projects with new creativity and vitality.”

Seng Song, Cambodian Living Arts’ Associate Country Manager, said,
“CLA is so happy to facilitate this workshop. It encourages artists to draw on their cultural heritage and traditions, and to keep these traditions living, dynamic and meaningful. The participation of artists and mentors from around the Mekong region means we will also go deeper into understanding our neighbors and our shared culture. I hope that everyone taking part will leave the workshop with new creative energy and with new creative connections.”

Yim Chanthy, one of the participating musicians, said
             “It is a privilege to be invited as one of the participants of 'Nirmita Composers Workshop'. As a traditional musician, I always strive to learn more about creative ways of conveying music as a message to audiences, so I’m confident that this workshop will give me valuable lessons and practices.”


Between 1975-1979, nearly 2 million Cambodians died during the Khmer Rouge regime, including 90% of the country's artists, who were among those deliberately persecuted.

During following decades, there have been great efforts to revive and rebuild the culture and arts, much of which was at risk of disappearing because of the loss of skill and knowledge, and Cambodia’s post conflict-context.

After many successful endeavors at home and abroad, today Cambodian arts and culture is growing increasingly dynamic by the day, and the underpinning sense of cultural memory and respect for preservation is strong. We now face the challenge of supporting composers and musicians, especially from traditional backgrounds, to create new, original work. This is vital if the traditions that have been preserved are to remain "living arts" and continue to resonate with youth of today, and future generations. 

This is why Chinary Ung and his team, with support from CLA, launched the Nirmita Composers Workshop. The goal is to give composers the technical and creative skills, to make work that expresses something of themselves and their time. 

We want this to become an annual project, engaging artists from neighboring countries (Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam), and hope to support more than 50 new composers over 5 years, and inspire a generation of new creativity in music.

This will also help to support other Cambodians in the arts community, especially contemporary dancers who want new music to dance to, and other composers and musicians who the participants can collaborate with on new creations. 

Nirmita is a NON profit 501 (c) (3).


Please specify for the “Music Program”
The Savong Foundation, Cambodia