Sawyer Denton is a composer, conductor, and arranger from the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. Growing up as a singer, he was always drawn to soaring melodies and driving rhythms that lingered in the ears of listeners. Today, his writing is characterized by similar intricate rhythmic patterns and floating, lyrical themes. Many of his works show a special interest in the natural world as a source of musical inspiration, including Dreams of the Canyon (2015), The Seismic Sea (2016) and Gaia: Spirit of Earth (2017).
In December 2017, the University of Michigan Chamber Choir, under the direction of Professor Jerry Blackstone, premiered Sawyer’s Ascension, an unaccompanied SATB choral work based on Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself.” In 2018, notable premieres included Gaia: Spirit of Earth, by the University of Michigan Philharmonia Orchestra, under Rotem Weinberg, and Midnight Run, by the Donald Sinta Quartet.
In addition to writing concert music, Sawyer has composed music for numerous films. In 2018, he saw the premiere of two films for which he composed music. “Viewpoint,” a science-fiction short directed by Dylan Lange, premiered in March 2018 at the Michigan Theatre. Sawyer also had the distinguished opportunity to work closely with retired NBC News correspondent and well-known filmmaker Mike Leonard. He wrote music for Leonard’s film “Global Generation,” a personal look into the lives of students at a well regarded, multicultural high school in Lake Forest, Illinois. “Global Generation” is set to premiere on PBS in October of 2018.
Sawyer has been lucky enough to receive acclaim for his work. He is the recipient of several awards in composition, including the 2017 Brehm Prize in Choral Composition as well as first place in the 2018 Donald Sinta Quartet National Composition Competition. He was recently selected as a finalist for the 2018 Vincent C. LaGuardia, Jr. Composition Competition for his orchestral work Overture in Mania (2018). Sawyer studied music composition under celebrated composers Evan Chambers, Michael Daugherty, Kristin Kuster, and Bright Sheng at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. There, he also studied choral and orchestral conducting with Eugene Rogers and Oriol Sans.
Sawyer’s current projects include On Becoming Ordinary, a half hour orchestral work using humor, irony and occasional solemnity to reflect on growing up in his hometown.