Dr. Anthony D.J. Branker recently retired from Princeton University where he was a member of the faculty for 27 years, held an endowed chair in jazz studies, and served as founding director of the Program in Jazz Studies, director of university jazz ensembles program, and associate director of the Program in Musical Performance. While at Princeton, he directed an extensive list of ensembles and taught courses in jazz theory through improvisation & composition, jazz performance practice in historical and cultural context, jazz composition, the evolution of jazz styles, and the improvising ensemble. Dr. Branker has served as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar and visiting professor at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in Tallinn, Estonia as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar, and has 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, The Hill School, and the New Jersey Summer Arts Institute. In addition, Dr. Branker was visiting composer at the Southern Danish Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Esbjerg, Denmark; Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg, Germany; Estonian Academy of Music and 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, Poland, Finland, Italy, Denmark, Greece, China, Estonia, Australia, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Russia, Lithuania, and Japan as well as throughout the United States.
As a conductor, Dr. Branker has worked 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, and Guilherme Franco. 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) featuring Blanchard and His Quintet with orchestra, and has guest conducted the Princeton University Orchestra, Sinfonia, Chapel Choir, and Glee Club; Jugend Sinfonie Orchester (Bremen, Germany); Israel’s Kiryat Ono Symphonic Youth Band; and Japan’s Fukui Junior Orchestra. In addition, Branker has 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 The Far East Suite and Ellington’s The New Orleans Suite at McCarter Theatre in Princeton. Recently, Dr. Branker conducted Pulitzer Prize Winning Composer Wynton Marsalis’ “Abyssinian 200 – A Gospel Celebration” for choir and big band.
The music of composer Anthony Branker stands firmly on jazz traditions while simultaneously pushing the boundaries in bold and beautiful new directions. Recently, he was named in Down Beat magazine's 63rd & 62nd Annual International Critics Poll as a "Rising Star Composer." Branker has recorded for Origin Records and Sons of Sound Records and has eight releases in his fast growing and musically rich discography. They include: Beauty Within (Origin, 2016), The Forward (Towards Equality) Suite (Origin, 2014), Uppity (Origin, 2013), Together (Origin, 2012), Dialogic (Origin, 2011), Dance Music (Origin, 2010), Blessings (Origin, 2009), and Spirit Songs (Sons of Sound, 2006). Dr. Branker leads three jazz collectives for his recording projects that include Imagine, Word Play and Ascent, which have featured Ralph Bowen, Fabian Almazan, Linda Oh, Rudy Royston, Pete McCann, David Binney, Mark Gross, Tia Fuller, Steve Wilson, Antonio Hart, Conrad Herwig, Clifford Adams, Andy Hunter, 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, Alison Crockett, and Freddie Bryant. Dr. Branker’s next CD project for Origin Records is titled Beauty Within and will present eight new works composed for the group Anthony Branker & Imagine featuring saxophonist Ralph Bowen, guitarist Pete McCann, pianist Fabian Almazan, bassist Linda Oh, and drummer Rudy Royston; Beauty Within will be released on the August 19, 2016.
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, Orrin Evans, 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 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 shared the stage 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, 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), 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), and Down Beat magazine. He has served as program scholar for Looking At: Jazz, America’s Art Form, a six-part documentary film viewing and discussion series at the Princeton Public Library in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Humanities, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and the American Library Association. Dr. Branker was the 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; 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; and Drew University.
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.