For three decades, James Grant has been commissioned by individuals, choruses, chamber ensembles and orchestras who have performed his music throughout the world. As a composer of choral music, he has taken First Prize honors in three international competitions, and his orchestral overture Chart won first prize in the 1998 Louisville Orchestra competition for new orchestral music. In 2002, Grant was one of five American composers to win the Aaron Copland Award; and in 2004, he won the Sylvia Goldstein Award, sponsored by Copland House.
After completing the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition from Cornell University, Grant was Assistant Professor of Music at Middlebury College in Vermont between 1988-1992, where he taught composition, coordinated an American Music Week Festival each year, and directed the New Music From Middlebury concert series. In 1992, Grant left academe to compose full-time and from 1993-96 served as Composer-In-Residence to the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra in Fairfax, Virginia. In 2003, Grant completed a five-year position as Composer-In-Residence to the Bay-Atlantic Symphony in Bridgeton, New Jersey.
Recognized by Cornell University's Graduate School of Humanities and Arts and by the Vermont chapter of the National Music Teachers Association for exceptional contributions as an educator, Grant continues to be active as a lecturer and private teacher of composition.
Grant's colorful musical language is known by musicians and audiences for its honed craft and immediacy. After the May 2003 Kennedy Center premiere of his 55-minute work for chorus and large orchestra based on the writings of Walt Whitman, Such Was The War, the Washington Times declared it “a work of outstanding power and breadth of emotion.” The Baltimore Sun wrote, “the sincerity is never in doubt, and there's an unmistakable, cumulative power generated by the text and music. Such Was the War makes an honorable contribution to the choral repertoire.”
After the October 2004 premier of Grant’s Concerto for Bass Clarinet and Strings by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel commented on a follow-up performance by the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra: “Grant here has made music that is structurally smart, emotionally probing, rhythmically clever and harmonically subtle…. The momentum builds to some hair-raising hyena howls that had the audience howling back in approval when the 15-minute concerto ended.”
The 2009 CD release of Grant’s recital music for viola (MS1335) by violist Michelle LaCourse. Chocolates, has generated universal praise, eliciting such comments as: “Grant creates a world in which the viola is completely at home, and thus can shine, yet he does it with a consistent, convincing language and a sure sense of compositional construction.”
Grant’s ability to compose music appropriate to specific levels of experience has found him working with groups ranging from professional orchestras, choruses, solo recitalists, new music ensembles and ballet companies to community choruses, university choral and instrumental ensembles, and youth orchestras. His music is regularly programmed at music festivals, symposia, and clinics; and his desire to design new music for a given repertoire has led to numerous successful consortium commissions.
Recent orchestral commissions have included Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra, for virtuoso saxophonist David Stambler; Eja! Eja! for timpani, soprano solo, large chorus and orchestra for the Choral Arts Society of Washington's 2005 Kennedy Center Holiday Concert; QUEST, a centennial celebration work for narrator and orchestra for the University of Mary Washington; and Scout, also for narrator and orchestra, for the Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra, based on Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
Other recent projects have included a chamber orchestra version of his choral symphony, Such Was The War, commissioned by the Choral Arts Society of Washington and premiered in March 2009 at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC as part of the Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration; and his 2008 tba4tet, a chamber piece for two euphoniums and two tubas commissioned by a consortium of 48 individuals and quartets.
Recently, works by James Grant have been recorded by: the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra; the Iceland Symphony Orchestra; the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong; Eufonix Quartet; clarinetist William Helmers and the principal strings from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra; tubist Mark Nelson; tubist Timothy Buzzbee; and violist Michelle LaCourse. In the last several years, articles on Grant's recital music have been featured in TUBA Journal and in the Journal of the American Viola Society.
Grant and his wife, fine-art photographer Elizabeth Siegfried, live and work in Toronto and Oxtongue Lake, ON, and in Sarasota, FL.