Under the tutelage of composer Leong Yoon Pin and Elaine Dobson, Phoon Yew Tien is Singapore's most recorded classical music composer. Phoon is not only well-grounded in both Eastern and Western musical vocabularies, his output covers the entire spectrum of chamber music, songs, music for theatre and concert hall. He has earned a fine reputation as a significant composer, both in Singapore and in the international arena.
For three consecutive years, 1977 to 1979, he won the Distinguished Prize in the National Song Writing Competition - the prizes were awarded for the works Our Song in 1977, Nanyang University (1978) and Song for Workers (1979). While attending the Queensland Conservatorium of Music on a Singapore Symphony Orchestra scholarship, Phoon was awarded the Dulcie Robertson Prize in composition thrice (1980, 1981 and 1983), for best composition.
In 1984, Phoon won the prestigious Yoshiro Irino Memorial Prize for Composition, awarded by the Asian Composers League, one of the highest awards to be given to a young Asian composer. In 1996, 1997,2001 and 2004, he was also awarded the top Local Serious Music Award by the Singapore Composer and Authors Society (COMPASS).
On 14th April 2000, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra premiered his Variants on an Ancient Tune as one of a series of new works commissioned for the 20th anniversary of the orchestra. On 12th October 2000, the Beijing China Film Orchestra performed works by Phoon Yew Tien in his solo composition concert in Beijing Concert Hall. The concert was jointly presented by the government of the People's Republic of China and the Singapore National Arts Council. He was also commissioned by the Singapore National Arts Council to compose a large scale work ( Confucius ¨C A Secular Cantata ) for the Singapore Arts Festival 2001.
Since 1987, Phoon's compositions and arrangements have been performed and recorded by the orchestras such as the Singapore Symphony, the Russian Philharmonic, Shanghai Philharmonic, Shanghai Music Conservatory Symphony, , Shanghai Music Conservatory Chinese Orchestra, Singapore Chinese Orchestra ,Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and the Kaohsiung City Chinese Orchestra of Taiwan.
Besides composing symphonic works,Chinese orchestra music and chamber music,Phoon participated in almost all Singapore Arts Festivals since 1984.He has collaborated with many Singapore artists including Kuo Pao Kun, Goh Lay Kuan, Tan Swie Hian , Lim Fei Shen and Yan Choong Lian to Create music for television (Grandpa¡¯s Meat Bone Tea),over 20 theatre productions (Evening Climb, Lao Jiu, Kopi Tiam, The Oolah World, Family, The Spirits Play, Descendent of the Eunuch Admiral, etc.), dance theatre (Nu Wa, Xi Fangping, Tang Huang, The Homing Fish, etc.) and dances (Nuo Dance, Madhouse, Dao, Qing Ming etc.).
Phoon's music successfully combines a Chinese idiom with contemporary compositional techniques and styles. It is often transparent and spare in texture, making effective and careful use of tone colour.
Phoon Yew Tien has been a Committee Member of the Advisory Council on Culture and the Arts (1988), a member of the National Arts Council Resource Panel, and Associate Conductor of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra. From 1993 to 1996, he was Head of Music at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, where he lectured from 1984 to 1999.
In 2000, Phoon was appointed by the Singapore government to re-arrange the National Anthem.
Phoon has been serving as an Arts Advisor to the National Arts Council (1998-2008). In 1996 he was awarded the Cultural Medallion by the Singapore Government, the highest award given in the field of the arts in Singapore.
He has also been appointed by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra to be the Composer in Residence for the year 2003.
In the year 2014, he has also been appointed by the Singapore Chinese Orchestra to be the Composer in Residence.