Aaron Grad (born 1980) is a young American composer and guitarist whose music embraces both his roots in popular culture and his training in the Western tradition. Born in Alexandria, Virginia, he was a listless student of piano and violin from the age of 5. At ten he started fresh on guitar, and he was soon writing songs, forming bands, and playing his first jazz gigs. Grad moved to New York in 1998 to study jazz guitar at New York University, but the downtown new music scene soon seduced him. While completing his Bachelor of Music degree in three years, he performed with his own groups at The Knitting Factory and Cornelia St. Café and founded a concert series at Judson Memorial Church.
Since 2001, Grad has composed nearly 40 works for concert instruments as well as many songs for himself and for bands to perform. His Concertino for Clarinet earned him an ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award in 2006 and grants from the American Music Center and Meet the Composer. The 2007 work Mandala of the Two Realms, for large orchestra with onstage martial artists executing Tai Chi forms, received honorable mention from the Minnesota Orchestra Composers Institute. Bassist Michael Formanek and the Peabody Jazz Orchestra premiered the 2007 work Confused Blues, which received an ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Award in 2009. Recently, Albany Records released a disc that includes Grad’s 2003 work Lepidopterology.
Grad received his Master of Music in Composition in 2008 from the Peabody Conservatory, where he studied with Christopher Theofanidis. Grad’s latest ensemble, Petrichor, debuted in February 2009, performing a set of new songs that blur boundaries between rock and chamber music. He recently completed The Father Book, a large suite for solo guitar with electronics that he will perform in May 2011 at the Strathmore Center in Bethesda, Maryland. His score for the film and performance piece Parents, a collaboration with artist Peter Nelson, will debut at University of Washington’s Henry Art Gallery in May 2010. Besides composing, Grad writes program notes for orchestras around the world and has reviewed concerts for The Washington Post.
Grad is a member of the American Music Center and American Composers Forum. He recently moved to Seattle, Washington, where he lives with his partner, Jen, and their cats Fea and Codetta. To learn more about Grad and his music, please visit www.aarongrad.com.