Concert (short) Bio
Derek Granger is pursuing his DMA in Saxophone Performance at the Hartt School, where he is a teaching assistant in the studio of Carrie Koffman. A native of Las Vegas, Nevada, Granger earned his MM in Saxophone Performance from Indiana University in 2019, where he studied with Otis Murphy and served as an Associate Instructor of Saxophone. Granger earned his BM in Saxophone Performance and Music Education from the University of Arizona in 2011, where he studied with Timothy McAllister and Kelland Thomas.
Granger served as Director of Choirs at Flowing Wells High School in Tucson, Arizona from 2011-2017. During his tenure at FWHS, the four Caballero Choirs earned numerous superior ratings at local, state, and national festivals, collaborated with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, and students won auditions into honor ensembles including Arizona All-State Choir, University of Arizona Honor Choir, and ACDA Honor Choir.
While teaching, Granger maintained an active performing schedule, playing alto saxophone with the Presidio Saxophone Quartet, giving recitals throughout the Southwest for the Placitas Artists Series, Lake City Chamber Series, University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music Concert Series, and more. In the Tucson area, Granger collaborated as a multiple woodwind artist with Artifact Dance Project, The Rogue Theatre, and Arizona Repertory Theatre, performing in over 30 pit orchestras and dance productions, including two tours of China with Artifact Dance Company's "Great American Dance Project."
Since his solo debut with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra in 2009, Granger has garnered awards at multiple MTNA Solo and Chamber Competitions, Indianapolis Matinee Musicale Young Artist Competition, and has premiered new works for saxophone at Midwest Composers Symposium and Society of Composers, Inc. National Conference. His saxophone and percussion collaboration with percussionist Dan Ingman, Duo Axon, was recently awarded second prize in the Hartt Chamber Music Competition, and is active in commissioning new works for the medium. Recent 2021 performances include recitals at the International Conference for Saxophone Pedagogy and Performance, the Music by Women Festival, and the NASA Region 8 Conference. Granger serves on the summer teaching faculty of Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp.
Narrative (long) Bio
Derek Granger was born in 1988 in Bishop, California, and was raised in the nearby town of Tonopah, Nevada, before relocating to Las Vegas at age seven. Both of his older brothers played saxophone in school bands, prompting him to pick it up once they moved on to high school. The instrument became an instant passion. Granger’s earliest musical influence was his first teacher, legendary Las Vegas jazz tenor saxophonist Bill Trujillo. It was through “Tru,” as he was called, that Granger began to experience both transcribing the great jazz artists and improvising for himself.
Despite the early influence of jazz, Granger found his true musical home in classical music. This was in large part thanks to the recordings of renowned virtuoso and pedagogue Eugene Rousseau. As a high school junior, Granger earned the rank of Command Performance in the Nevada Solo and Ensemble competition, playing Paul Creston’s Sonata for the All-State ensembles. This performance led to meeting his first classical teacher, saxophonist Mark McArthur, who happened to be in the audience. Through McArthur, Granger received the training necessary to pursue music at the college level, and was exposed both to standard and contemporary saxophone repertoire. This propelled him into summer studies at Northwestern University and Brevard Music Center, where he studied with Jan Berry-Baker and Joseph Lulloff.
Granger entered the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona in 2006; he earned his BM in Music Education and Performance there in 2011. His studies with Grammy award-winning saxophonist Timothy McAllister and, later, Kelland Thomas, were formative musical influences. While at the U of A, Granger performed extensively with the Catalina Quartet, advancing to two national MTNA Chamber Competitions, performing recitals and residencies around the Southwest and abroad, and recording Gavin Bryars’ Alaric I or II for the AUR Recordings series “America’s Millennium Tribute to Adolphe Sax.” As a soloist, Granger advanced to a national MTNA Solo Competition; upon winning the 2009 TSO Young Artist Competition, he made his concerto debut with the Tucson Symphony, where he performed Jacques Ibert’s Concertino da Camera. In the same year, Granger traveled to Gap, France to study with many of the world’s top saxophonists at the European University of Saxophone.
Granger’s final semester of undergraduate study was as a student teacher with the Flowing Wells High School Band, which, at the time, was directed by Arizona veteran teacher Robert Gaston. Through his work with the FWHS Band and Fine Arts Department in general, Granger discovered a love for secondary music teaching. During his time at Flowing Wells, his graduate school ambitions were put on hold due to a performance-related jaw injury. When the position of Choir Director opened at the end of the school year, the school offered him the position. Despite Granger’s initial trepidation over his lack of choral training, his mentors assured him he would succeed. That summer, Granger attended choral conducting institutes at Westminster Choir College and the Eastman School of Music, gaining the skills skills that would prepare him for the years to come at FWHS.
Despite a first year complete with many late nights, phone calls with mentors, and ups and downs in the classroom, under Granger’s direction, the Flowing Wells choir program began to grow and gain performing accolades, ranging from superior ratings at the Northern Arizona University Jazz and Madrigal Festival to a superior rating at the Arizona American Choral Directors Association State (AzACDA) Festival. In 2012, Granger was awarded the AzACDA First-Year Teaching Award. His experience at Flowing Wells introduced him to the unexpected joys of teaching choral music, a medium which naturally invites a more direct mode of expression not only due to the presence of text, but also because of the personal (and powerfully communal) nature of singing. During his time at FWHS, Granger also taught AP Music Theory and Keyboards, as well as four choir classes. He served as cooperating teacher for two student teachers and as chairperson of the South-Central Regional Choir for three years. His choirs were invited to perform with the University of Arizona Community Chorus and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, and gave two concerts in the Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California. In 2015, Granger published an article in the Arizona Music News, Tennessee Musician, and Kentucky Music News entitled “An Instrumentalist’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Choir.”
During his time at Flowing Wells, Granger also enjoyed an active freelance performing career. In the summers of 2011 and 2012, he toured China with Artifact Dance Project, visiting over 30 cities as a band member on their “Great American Dance Tour.” This collaboration led to a steady stream of engagements with Tucson-area arts organizations, such as The Rogue Theater, Arizona Repertory Theater, Tucson Christian Youth Theater, and Arizona Onstage. Granger performed over 30 plays and musicals as a multiple woodwinds artist while in Tucson. From 2011-2017, Granger played alto saxophone with the Presidio Quartet, touring across the Southwest area presenting recitals at the Placitas Artist Series, Lake City Chamber Series, University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music Concert Series, and Bisbee Friends of Music Chamber Series, among other venues. Granger was invited to join the summer teaching faculty of Rocky Ridge Music Center in Estes Park, Colorado, in 2017, where he taught choir and chamber music until 2019.
in 2017, Granger made the difficult decision to leave the choirs at FWHS to pursue his graduate degree in saxophone performance. After a busy 2017 audition season complete with multiple choir trips, he was offered a position of Associate Instructor (AI) in the studio of Grammy award-winning saxophonist Otis Murphy, in the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. While at IU, Granger performed Alexander Glazunov’s Concerto Op. 109 with an ad-hoc student orchestra; collaborated with composers to premiere multiple new works along with Empyrean Saxophone Quartet; won second prize in the Indianapolis Matinee Musicale Competition; and taught weekly lessons to college non-major saxophonists. This teaching experience affirmed his ultimate goal of teaching saxophone at the collegiate level, and it led him to join the summer faculty of the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in 2019.
Upon earning his MM from Indiana University in 2019, Granger accepted a teaching assistant position in the studio of Carrie Koffman at The Hartt School. Since arriving at Hartt, Granger has been active as a soloist and chamber musician. Alongside the Ma’at Quartet, he performed Michael Colgrass’ Urban Requiem with the Hartt Wind Ensemble in 2020 that same year, and the quartet was named a semifinalist in the North American Saxophone Alliance (NASA) Quartet Competition. His collaboration with percussionist Dan Ingman, Duo Axon, won second prize in the 2021 Hartt Chamber Competition and presented a Vandoren prize-winning recital at the 2021 NASA Region 8 Conference, where they premiered a work they had commissioned by Robert Rankin entitled Deep State. As a soloist, Granger was a finalist in the 2021 Hartt Concerto Competition and subsequently performed a virtual solo recital for the “Hartt at Home” series. He can be heard on the forthcoming NAXOS release by Hartt’s Foot in the Door contemporary ensemble.
Granger is an advocate for new music in solo and chamber settings. He has helped to commission over 15 works for saxophone. Granger is also active as an arranger; his arrangement of Mozart’s Fantasia in D minor for saxophone quartet is currently available through Keepe Publishing House, and his arrangement of Respighi’s Passo Mezzo e Mascherada from Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No. 1 is available through his website. During the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, Granger collaborated with poet Patrick Kindig, to compose and perform musical accompaniments to 30 of Patrick’s poems, a project they collectively entitled “The Quarantine Variations.”