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Dr. Anthony DJ Branker

Department of Music
Woolworth Center

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ


Tony Branker
Dr. Anthony Branker holds an endowed chair in jazz studies, is Founder and Director of the Program in Jazz Studies, and serves as Associate Director of the Program in Musical Performance at Princeton University, where he directs an extensive list of ensembles and teaches courses in jazz theory through improvisation & composition, jazz performance practice in historical and cultural context, jazz composition, evolution of jazz styles, and the improvising ensemble. He has served as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar and visiting professor at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in Tallinn, Estonia and has also been a member of the faculty at the Manhattan School of Music, Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts, Hunter College of the City University of New York, Ursinus College, and the New Jersey Summer Arts Institute. Dr. Branker was visiting composer at the Southern Danish Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Odense/Esbjerg, Denmark; Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg, Germany; Estonian Academy of Music & Theatre; and for “Crossing Borders” - the Socrates/Erasmus Intensive Programme in cooperation with the European Union, the Association of Baltic Academies of Music, and the Estonian Academy of Music & Theatre. His work as a composer, educator, scholar, conductor, and performer has been featured on the international stage in Brazil, Switzerland, Poland, Finland, Italy, Estonia, Denmark, Greece, China, Australia, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Russia, Lithuania, and Japan as well as throughout the United States.  

The music of composer Anthony Branker has been shaped by the sounds of jazz, Afro Latin, Brazilian, African, classical, and African American music traditions while simultaneously pushing the boundaries in bold and beautiful new directions. Recently, he was named in Down Beat magazine’s 63rd and 62nd Annual Critics Polls as a “Rising Star Composer.” Dr. Anthony Branker has recorded for Origin Records and Sons of Sound Records and has six releases in his fast growing and musically rich discography. They include: Spirit Songs (Sons of Sound, 2006), Blessings (Origin Records, 2009), Dance Music (Origin Records, 2010), Dialogic (Origin Records, 2011), Together (Origin Records, 2012), Uppity (Origin Records, 2013), and The Forward (Towards Equality) Suite (Origin, 2014). He leads two jazz collectives that include Anthony Branker & Ascent and Anthony Branker & Word Play, which have featured Mark Gross, Tia Fuller, Steve Wilson, Antonio Hart, Ralph Bowen, Andy Hunter, Clifford Adams, Conrad Herwig, Eli Asher, Jonny King, Jim Ridl, Bryan Carrott, Kenny Davis, John Benitez, Belden Bullock, Donald Edwards, Adam Cruz, Ralph Peterson Jr., Wilby Fletcher, Renato Thoms, Kadri Voorand, and Freddie Bryant.

Dr. Branker has received composition prizes, commissions, served as composer-in-residence, and has had his music featured in performance in Poland, Italy, Denmark, Finland, France, Estonia, Russia, Australia, China, Germany, Lithuania, and Japan. These include such festivals as the Pori International Jazz Festival (Finland), St. Petersburg International Jazz Festival (Russia), Vibe Jazz Club (Hong Kong, China), Kaunas International Jazz Festival (Lithuania), Estonia International Jazz Festival (Estonia), Good Music Festival (Denmark), Mt. Fuji International Jazz Festival (Japan), and JVC Jazz Festival (New York); as well as performances at such venues as New York’s Iridium Jazz Club, Sweet Basil Jazz Club, The Five Spot, New York’s Symphony Space, the Fez under the Time Café, Trumpets Jazz Club, the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, Puffin Cultural Theatre, Sydney Conservatorium of Music (Australia), Southern Danish Academy of Music (Denmark), Stanislaw Moniuszko Academy of Music (Poland), and the Estonian Academy of Music (Estonia). In addition, his music has appeared on National Public Radio, was spotlighted at the International Jazz Composers Symposium at the University of South Florida, and has been performed by the Shanghai Jazz Orchestra in Shanghai, China. His music has also been performed and/or recorded by the Princeton University Orchestra, Talib Kibwe (T.K. Blue), Kenny Barron, Eddie Henderson, Victor Lewis, Steve Nelson, James Weidman, Stanley Jordan, Winard Harper, John Hicks, Joe Ford, Benny Carter, Valery Ponomarev, Cecil Brooks III, Onaje Allen Gumbs, Alex Blake, Sarah Jane Cion, Michael Cochrane, Jann Parker, Curtis Lundy, Steve Kroon, Rick Margitza, Marc Bernstein, and the Spirit of Life Ensemble.

During his residency at the Estonian Academy of Music, Branker composed The Eesti Jazz Suite, a five-movement work inspired by the culture and people of Estonia. This work was premiered in November of 2006 at the academy of music as part of the concert tour of the Princeton University Jazz Composers Collective, which was sponsored by the Department of State of the United States, the U.S. Embassy in Estonia, and the Estonian Academy of Music. In 2008, Branker’s Skirting the Issue was performed by the experimental jazz quartet Amparo from the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Sweden and the Crossing Borders Improvisational Music Ensemble at Princeton University. In 2015, Dr. Branker’s composition The House of the Brotherhood of the Black Heads was performed in Poland by a combined ensemble featuring jazz studies students from the Stanislaw Moniuszko Academy of Music in Gdansk and members of the Princeton University Free to Be Ensemble.

As a conductor, Dr. Branker has had the opportunity to work with such artists as Clark Terry, Phil Woods, Slide Hampton, Jimmy Heath, Jon Faddis, Conrad Herwig, Oliver Lake, Frank Foster, Benny Carter, Ted Curson, Stanley Jordan, Bobby Watson, Terence Blanchard, Bob Mintzer, Ralph Peterson, Steve Nelson, Antonio Hart, Freddie Hendrix, Don Braden, Jacky Terrasson, Bryan Carrott, Mark, Gross, Guilherme Franco, and Benny Powell. He has conducted world premieres of commissioned works for big band, including Michael Philip Mossman’s John Coltrane Suite; Bob Mintzer’s March Majestic; Jimmy Heath’s For the Love Of; Ralph Bowen’s Little Miss B; Conrad Herwig’s Reflections of a Man Facing South; Randy Bauer’s Wide-Eyed Wonder; and Laurie Altman’s In Another Time for orchestra, big band and vocal ensemble. Dr. Branker has also conducted trumpeter Terence Blanchard's Grammy Award-Winning score for A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina) from Spike Lee's documentary "When the Levees Broke" featuring trumpeter Terence Blanchard and His Quintet with Brice Winston (tenor saxophone), Fabian Almazan (piano), Joshua Crumbly (bass), Kendrick Scott (drums) and members of the Princeton University and Rutgers University Orchestras in performance at McCarter Theatre in Princeton. Dr. Branker has also conducted the Princeton University Orchestra in world premieres of two dance works choreographed to the orchestral music of Claude Debussy's La Bote Joujoux (The Toy Box) - including the U.S. Premiere of Debussy's newly discovered "jazz overture" for this work - and John Alden Carpenter's Krazy Kat. He has also collaborated with the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra and conductors Wycliffe Gordon, Loren Schoenberg, and Cecil Bridgewater on joint big band performances of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's Far East Suite and Ellington's New Orleans Suite at McCarter Theatre in Princeton. Dr. Branker has also conducted such extended works as Lalo Schifrin’s Gillespiana Suite, Ellington's A Tone Parallel to Harlem, New World A Comin,' Music From the Sacred Concerts, the Ellington/Strayhorn collaborative adaptation of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite and Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt Suites Nos. 1 & 2. Recently, Dr. Branker conducted Pulitzer Prize Winning Composer Wynton Marsalis’ “Abyssinian 200 – A Gospel Celebration” for choir and big band.

Dr. Branker has also appeared as conductor with the Jugend Sinfonie Orchester (Bremen, Germany), Israel's Kiryat Ono Symphonic Youth Band, Japan's Fukui Junior Orchestra, Estonian Academy of Music Big Band (Tallinn, Estonia), Hunter Jazz Repertory Orchestra (New York), Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts Jazz Ensemble, New Jersey Intercollegiate All State Jazz Ensemble, and the New Jersey All State High School Jazz Ensemble featuring performances at NJPAC in Newark and at the New Jersey Education Association Convention at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. While at Princeton, Professor Branker has led performances that have featured the Princeton University Orchestra, Sinfonia, Chapel Choir, Glee Club/Concert Choir, and Gospel Ensemble, and has directed two national award-winning jazz groups, including the Monk/Mingus Ensemble, winner of the Down Beat magazine Student Music Award for “Best Jazz Instrumental Group,” and Ensemble X, recipient of a 2003 Down Beat music award for “Outstanding Performance.” He has also directed the University Jazz Composers Collective and University Free to Be Ensemble, which have traveled to Poland, Estonia, Australia, and China for concerts and collaborations with international jazz studies programs.

As a trumpeter, Branker has performed and recorded with the Spirit of Life Ensemble - including a five-year residency at New York's internationally renowned Sweet Basil jazz club. He has also appeared at the Pori International Jazz Festival (Finland); Leningrad/St. Petersburg International Jazz Festival (Russia); Kaunas International Jazz Festival (Lithuania); Estonia International Jazz Festival (Tartu, Estonia); JVC Jazz Festival at Sweet Basil (New York); Panasonic Village Jazz Festival (New York); as well as jazz club performances in France, Finland, Germany, Russia, and New York. In addition, he has worked in a variety of musical settings with such artists as Ted Curson, Talib Kibwe, Guilherme Franco & Nova Bossa Nova, Steve Nelson, Marcus Belgrave, Billy Higgins, John Hicks, Michael Cochrane, Calvin Hill,James Weidman, Eddie Henderson, Bill Saxton, Stanley Jordan, Benny Carter, Ralph Peterson, Terence Blanchard, Big John Patton, Roscoe Mitchell, Rick Margitza, Gary Burton, the R&B group Tavares, and has performed in the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway production of Dinah Was: The Dinah Washington Musical.

Dr. Branker's work as a scholar has been shared at conferences and/or published by the International Society for Music Education (ISME), International Society for Improvised Music (ISIM), Foundation for Educational Administration (FEA) / New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA), Research in Music Education (RIME), International Symposium on Assessment in Music Education (ISAME), College Music Society (CMS), International Jazz Composers Symposium (IJCS), International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE), New Jersey Music Educators Association (NJMEA), Princeton University Regional Conference - "Big Ideas: Science, Innovation, and Discovery," in addition to contributing to Down Beat magazine. Dr. Branker was the 2015 keynote speaker for the University of Jyväskylä Music Education Research Seminar in Jyväskylä, Finland, and has appeared a guest lecturer for the Department of Pop & Jazz Music at Helsinki Polytechnic Stadia in Helsinki, Finland; Heino Elleri Nimeline Tartu Muusikakool, Tartu, Estonia; Kuressaare Music Academy on the Estonian island of Saaremaa; the Pop/Jazz Program at Viljandi Kultuuriakadeemia Muusikamajas in Viljandi, Estonia; Winmalee High School, Blue Mountains, Australia; National Endowment for the Humanities Paul Robeson Institute at Rutgers University; "Teachers as Scholars" program for New Jersey Educators at Princeton University; Princeton University Alumni College Seminar "New Orleans: City of Jazz" in New Orleans, Louisiana; the Plexus Institute; Drew University; and has served as program scholar for the Looking At: Jazz, America's Art Form, a six-part documentary film viewing and discussion series at the Princeton Public Library. He has also been featured in performance with the Delaware Valley Philharmonic Orchestra as narrator of Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait.

Anthony D.J. Branker holds the degrees of Doctor of Education and Master of Education from Columbia University, Teachers College; Master of Music in Jazz Pedagogy from the University of Miami; and a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Certificate in African-American Studies from Princeton University.