David Sanford

“Both raucous and exquisitely poised, the music was decked out with some broadly perceptible reference points – including traces of classical modernism, jazz improvisation and the attack of punk. Yet it was the composer’s way of combining these surface-level traits that proved most memorable.” – The New York Times

Born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1963, David Sanford received degrees in music theory and composition from the University of Northern Colorado, New England Conservatory, and Princeton University where he received the PhD in music composition. During these years, he studied composition and theory with Richard Bourassa, Robert Ehle, Arthur Berger, Pozzi Escot, Jim Randall, Claudio Spies and Steve Mackey. He is the founder and director of the David Sanford Big Band, a twenty-piece contemporary big band formerly known as the Pittsburgh Collective.

Sanford’s honors include the Rome Prize, fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Radcliffe Institute, an Ives Scholarship and a Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, awards from BMI, ASCAP, and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and a Composer Portrait concert at Miller Theater. He was composer-in-residence at Concert Artists Guild and at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music (through BMI), guest composer at the Wellesley Composers Conference, and a chosen participant in the African American Composers Forum with the Detroit Symphony. He has received commissions from the Fromm Foundation for the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Chamber Music America for the Meridian Arts Ensemble, the Zéphyros Winds, and the Festival of New Trumpet Music, from the Koussevitzky Foundation for cellist Matt Haimovitz and the Pittsburgh Collective, the Barlow Endowment for pianist Lara Downes, the Mary Flagler Cary Trust for Speculum Musicae, and from Castle of our Skins, Astral Artists, the New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Da Capo Chamber Players, the Princeton University Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble, the Empyrean Ensemble at UC Davis, and the Mana Saxophone Quartet. In addition, his works have received performances by the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra under Kent Nagano, the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra under Marin Alsop, the Detroit Symphony under Leslie Dunner, the Peabody Modern Orchestra under Cliff Colnot, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Chicago Symphony Chamber Players, and the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, among many others.

Sanford’s works have been recorded by artists including Speculum Musicae, Matt Haimovitz, the Meridian Arts Ensemble, pianist Lara Downes and New York Philharmonic cellist Eric Bartlett. The title track of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s recording of the composer’s works, Black Noise, was named one of “The 25 Best Classical Music Tracks of 2019” by the New York Times, the Pittsburgh Collective’s CD Live at the Knitting Factory, featuring his compositions and arrangements was named one of the albums of the year in Jazziz magazine; and Haimovitz’s disc Meeting of the Spirits with his cello ensemble UCCELLO, which featured seven jazz arrangements and one composition by Sanford, received a four-star review from Downbeat magazine, and was nominated for a Grammy Award.

David Sanford Big Band

The New York-based David Sanford Big Band (formerly the Pittsburgh Collective) was formed in 2003 and comprises twenty musicians specializing in jazz, avant-garde, classical, funk and Latin genres. Members and soloists have included Hugh Ragin, Jon Irabagon, Anna Webber, Josh Roseman, Mike Christianson, Steven Bernstein, Bruce Johnstone, Chris Washburne, Adam Kolker, Ted Levine, Tony Kadleck, Hiro Noguchi, Dave Ballou, and players from the Meridian Arts Ensemble, Boston Musica Viva, the Knights, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the International Contemporary Ensemble, Talea Ensemble, the Denver Neophonic Jazz Orchestra, and most of the prominent big bands in New York City. Along with presenting original works written expressly for the ensemble, the group performs big band literature that draws heavily on classical idioms (Stravinsky), classical works (Tomkins, Mahler) and popular music (Nick Cave, Sia), as well as jazz standards (Gillespie, Mingus, Elvin Jones). The group also received a commission from the Koussevitzky Foundation for a concerto featuring the classical cellist Matt Haimovitz; the resulting work, Scherzo Grosso, was recorded on their debut disc Live at the Knitting Factory (Oxingale Records, 2007) which topped the “Critics’ Choice” list for 2007 in Jazziz magazine.

The David Sanford Big Band album A Prayer For Lester Bowie was released on September 24th.

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