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Greg Danner

Greg Danner

Greg Danner is Professor of Music at Tennessee Technological University. Born in St. Louis, Missouri (1958) he received the B.A. from Southeast Missouri State University, the M.M. from the Eastman School of Music, and the Ph.D. from Washington University. His principal composition teachers were Charles Smith, Samuel Adler, and Robert Wykes. Danner’s awards include the College Band Directors National Association Music for Young Band prize, vocal category and grand prize in the Delius Society composition contest, first prize in the Taghkanic Chorale composers competition, and the Louisiana Music Teachers Association and Kentucky Music Teachers Association Composer Commission Awards. He is a three-time winner in the annual Composers Guild composition contest, including the Grand Prize in 2010. Danner has received annual ASCAP awards for composition since 1989.

Recent commissions include works for the U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America, the American School Band Directors Association, Kentucky Music Teachers Association, Tennessee Music Education Association, the Caixa Percussion Trio, and the Gateway Music Festival. An active performer (horn), he has held positions with the Baton Rouge and Acadiana orchestras in Louisiana and has performed with the Huntsville (AL) Symphony, the Bowling Green (KY) Chamber Orchestra, Lake Charles and Rapides orchestras in Louisiana and the Saint Louis Symphony, Saint Louis Municipal Opera, and Webster Groves orchestras in Missouri. Dr. Danner is currently hornist with the Brass Arts Quintet, Bryan Symphony Orchestra, Murfreesboro Symphony, and Cumberland County Playhouse. He performs on alto horn with the Jack Daniels Silver Cornet Band, the Southern Stars Symphonic Brass Band, and is a freelance and studio musician in the Nashville area.

I first came across Greg when visiting Tennessee Tech and I heard his wind quintet Vaudeville, with a finale which is one of the funniest pieces of music ever, with dialogue on a par with Berio’s Opus Zoo; with an oom-pah backing, two of the group tell outrageous stories, each outdoing each other, as Greg explains, in the style of Abbott and Costello. In Taiwan, he gave me a score and recording of a superb symphonic work, Seven Wonders and listening to that recently led me to his website where I was amazed to find a host of works at Grade 4 or below. With the experience of Vaudeville behind me, I should have guessed that his Country Dances would be excellent and it is, two dance movements which might have been scored by Malcolm Arnold or even Aaron Copland, with a central movement of great lyricism and tenderness. This is of course “band” music but Greg treats the players like a wind ensemble, solos and individual countermelodies abound, twists of metre, this is really a great piece for the adventurous school band. Another fine piece at Grade 4 level is Danner’s Beautiful River, both published by C.Allan Publications.

COUNTRY DANCES, (C. Alan Publications gr. 4, duration 16 minutes)

Sample score and sound clip: Country Dances

Greg Danner

The country dance, or “contradance” has a rich tradition in America. Although related to the more familiar square dance, the style is markedly different. Rather than the square set of four couples, any number of couples arranged in lines make up a contradance. The music of the contradance is mostly traditional tunes, with roots in the British Isles and New England. It is this music – the jigs, hornpipes, waltzes, schottisches, and fiddler’s reels – that brings the beauty and excitement to the dance. The tuneful melodies, rustic harmonies, and invigorating rhythms are truly a part of our American heritage.

BEAUTIFUL RIVER, (C. Alan Publications gr. 4, duration 11.00 minutes)

Sample score and sound clip: Beautiful River

I find that so often school band music at this level is fine when loud and exciting, but there is a cliché-ridden sentimental language for slow music which sticks in my gullet; I suspect it is derived from our brass band colleagues, but here is a composer who plays in a brass band and yet who writes music full of sentiment which does not really get sentimental Beautiful River says nothing particularly innovative but says it very well, a moving introduction, an exciting central section with great parts for percussion and a really beautiful ending. If you want a significant elegiac work of eleven minutes, try this.

Beautiful River was commissioned by Daryl Jack and the Spring Hill High School Band, Spring Hill, Tennessee. It was written in memory of Christy Foster, a percussion player in the band, who was killed in an automobile accident. Despite the tragic nature of the accident, Beautiful River does not attempt to serve as an elegy, but rather a celebration or reaffirmation of life. The final section is a developed setting of the hymn tune "Shall We Gather at the River."

GRADE 1 AND 2

Finding significant music at the lower Grades is a challenge, but I would urge everyone to visit WASBE member Greg Danner’s website and listen to some of his early grade pieces. Zephyr (C. Alan Grade 2, 3 minutes) is an all too short simple tune, beautifully scored, though your percussion might need to go out for a sectional. Make sure they are back in time to rehearse Abaye’s Game (TRN, Grade 2 duration 2.38), an extrovert fun piece based on a song used in a hand clapping game played in Ghana, with whistling, clapping and shouting. Goosebumps (C. Alan Grade 1 duration 2.5 minutes) is even easier with some interesting sounds for the percussion, and then you can restore order with Danner’s beautiful setting of Down by the Salley Gardens (C.Alan Grade 2 duration 5.5 minutes)

ZEPHYR, (C. Alan Publications gr. 2, duration 3 minutes)

ZEPHYR is a poetic term for a gentle breeze. Nature offers few pleasures that are more calm and peaceful than the mood we feel with a refreshing breeze. It is this thought that is the stimulus for this ballad for band.

Sample score and sound clip: Zephyr

Abaye’s Game (Grade 2 TRN 2.38)

Abaye's Game (pronounced: a-bi-yuh) is influenced by the music of western Africa. This rich musical language is characterized by rhythmic drumming and simple, "tuneful" melodies. Music of western Africa is closely tied to daily life, and movement through dance or hand games is a part of making music. The melody for this EarthSong is based on a song used in a hand clapping game played in Ghana.

Several musical techniques common to African music are adapted and included in this composition. It is typical of African music to include sections where speaking or shouting is called for. The "shout" 4 measures before measure 25 should be an enthusiastic sound. A syllable such as Ha or Ya (long a's) (or a combination of these or different syllables) is recommended. The shouts do not have to be sounded at once, but can stagger somewhat for a more spontaneous effect. The whistling called for at measure 13 and 3 measures after measure 19 can be on various, even many pitches, whatever is comfortable for each player. Once a player finds a pitch, however, encourage them to keep that pitch for themselves rather than moving around. Players should breathe whenever needed, but try not to breathe at the same time as the person next to them. Characteristic of African music is the "call and response", where one voice sounds a short musical idea and then a chorus responds with the same idea. The percussion section sounds several rhythmic "calls" at measure 45, and then the other players respond by hand clapping the same rhythms.

GOOSEBUMPS (C. Alan Publications gr. 1) 2.5 minutes

A spooky, Halloweenish tune where everyone gets a turn at the melody and the percussion section gets to play some “surprise” instruments, like the flexatone and vibraslap.

Sample score and sound clip: Goosebumps

DOWN BY THE SALLEY GARDENS (C. Alan Publications, grade. 2 duration 5.5 minutes)

A salley garden is a garden of willow trees, kept in Medieval Ireland to have material for basket making and thatch roofing for cottages. It was a place where people would sometimes go to find the solitude to contemplate life's questions.

Sample score and sound clip: Down by the Salley Gardens

  • Greg Danner
  • Professor of Music
  • Department of Music and Art
  • Tennessee Technological University
  • OFFICE: TTU Box 5045, Cookeville, TN 38505
  • (931) 372-6180
  • HOME: 1775 Bradshaw Blvd., Cookeville, TN 38506
  • (931) 526-3882
  • FAX: (931) 372-6279
  • E-Mail: gdanner@tntech.edu
  • Composition website www.gregdanner.com