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David Sanford

A bold composer, arranger, and educator, David Sanford is known for his broad-ranging sound that straddles modern creative jazz, classical, and the avant-garde. Along with teaching at Mount Holyoke College, Sanford leads the Pittsburgh Collective and debuted his big band with 2021's A Prayer for Lester Bowie. Born in Pittsburgh in 1963, Sanford grew up in a musical family with parents who were choir teachers. His grandfather was also a jazz trumpeter and his great-grandmother Mozie Bass wrote songs for church. Starting at age ten, he played trombone in school. He also developed an interest in a wide array of music, including classical, the big band work of Charles Mingus, as well as the funk of bands like Parliament and Sly and the Family Stone. His family eventually moved to Colorado, where Sanford majored in music at the University of Northern Colorado. He eventually earned master's degrees in theory and composition from the New England Conservatory of Music. Accolades followed, including a BMI Student Composer Award, a Koussevitzky Commission, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, the latter of which allowed Sanford to complete his doctoral studies at Princeton, writing his dissertation on Miles Davis. Since 1998, he has been on the music faculty at Mount Holyoke College, where he has taught classes on theory, composition, and the history of jazz, among other courses. In 2002, Sanford was awarded the Samuel Barber Rome Prize Fellowship, which found him traveling to the American Academy in Rome for 11 months to work and commune with other artists. Following that experience, he formed the classical and jazz ensemble the Pittsburgh Collective. In 2005, they issued their debut album, Live at the Knitting Factory, which featured a guest appearance by cellist Matt Haimovitz. Sanford has also composed works for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Meridian Arts Ensemble, and others. In 2021, he released the big band album A Prayer for Lester Bowie, featuring trumpeter Hugh Ragin.
© Matt Collar /TiVo


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