Electric guitarist and composer D. J. Sparr, who Gramophone recently hailed as “exemplary,” is one of America’s preeminent composer-performers. He has caught the attention of critics with his eclectic style, described as
“pop-Romantic…iridescent and wondrous” (The Mercury News) and “suits the boundary erasing spirit of today’s new-music world” (The New York Times). The Los Angeles Times praises him as “an excellent soloist,” and the Santa Cruz Sentinel says that he “wowed an enthusiastic audience…Sparr’s guitar sang in a near-human voice.”
He was the electric guitar concerto soloist on the 2018 GRAMMY-Award winning, all-Kenneth Fuchs recording with JoAnn Falletta and the London Symphony Orchestra. In 2011, Sparr was named one of NPR listener’s favorite 100 composers under the age 40. He has composed for and performed with renowned ensembles such as the Houston Grand Opera, Cabrillo Festival, New World Symphony, Washington National Opera, and Eighth Blackbird. His music has received awards from BMI, New Music USA, and the League of Composers/ISCM. Sparr is a faculty member at the famed Walden School’s Creative Musicians Retreat in Dublin, New Hampshire. His works and guitar performances appear on Naxos, Innova Recordings, & Centaur Records.
D. J. lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with his wife Kimberly, son Harris, Nannette the hound dog, and Bundini the boxer. D. J. Sparr’s music is published by Bill Holab Music.
Composer and electric guitar soloist D. J. SPARR (b. 1975, Westminster, MD), who Gramophone recently hailed as “exemplary,” is one of the preeminent composer-performers of his generation. His eclectic composition style has been described as “pop-Romantic… iridescent and wondrous” (Mercury News) and “suits the boundary-erasing spirit of today’s new-music world” (New York Times). The Los Angeles Times praises him as “an excellent soloist” and the Santa Cruz Sentinel says that he “wowed an enthusiastic audience…Sparr’s guitar sang in a near-human voice.” In 2011, Sparr was named one of NPR listener’s favorite 100 composers under the age 40.
D. J. was the Young American Composer-in-Residence with the California Symphony from 2011-14 and was Composer-in-Residence with the Richmond Symphony from 2009-11. His compositions have been commissioned and performed by organizations such as the Houston Grand Opera, North Carolina Opera, and Eighth Blackbird. Recent/upcoming works include Katrina: Concerto for Jazz Guitar and Orchestra (Arkansas Symphony) …To me from the earth… (CAM Raleigh, NC Symphony), & On Behalf: Metaphor Fourty-four (Tribeca New Music Festival).
Of the premiere of Approaching Ali (Washington National Opera), the Baltimore Sun writes, “…Sparr knows how to send a vocal line soaring vividly and how to extract a great deal of color from a 10-member orchestra… It also demonstrates Sparr’s considerable potential; his first attempt in this tricky genre lands some very solid punches…like Ali in his prime, the score is nimble on its feet.”
As an electric guitar soloist, D. J. has appeared with Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini (Parma, Italy), the New World, Alabama, Dayton, Fort Collins, Space Coast, and Winston-Salem Symphonies, and the Cabrillo Festival of Music under Marin Alsop. He maintains a busy calendar of solo performances from coast to coast, including appearances at the Hirschhorn Museum, Atlas Theater (Washington, DC), Spectrum, and the Flea Theater (NYC). He performed Kenneth Fuchs’s electric guitar concerto, Glacier, on the GRAMMY® award-winning album with the London Symphony under JoAnn Falletta recorded at Abbey Road Studios in August 2017. Glacier is the first electric guitar concerto to be part of a GRAMMY® award-winning project.
A passion for musical performance grew from family encouragement at a young age. Three-year old D. J. stood in front of a television set holding his great-grandmother Violet Bond’s straw broom in hand pretending it was a guitar while Roy Clark and Buck Owens performed on the Television show Hee Haw. Noticing this, Violet gave him a toy Mickey Mouse guitar for his third birthday and a Ukulele for his fourth birthday. By age five, D. J. was taking guitar lessons and was soon performing original songs for a “captive” audience at his local music store, Coffey Music in Westminster, MD.
In early high school, D. J. spent his late-night and weekend hours writing and recording music with a Fostex X-26 4-track recorder while attending Baltimore School for the Arts as a jazz guitar major. Surrounded by classical music he began to write compositions for a variety of instruments and attended summer composition programs at The Walden School and the Boston University Tanglewood Institute. D. J. continued honing his compositional craft at the Eastman School of Music (BM) and the University of Michigan (MM, DMA) studying with composers William Bolcom, Michael Daugherty, Christopher Rouse, Joseph Schwantner, and Augusta Read Thomas.
D. J. has recently been featured on the Grammy-Award winning all-Kenneth Fuchs recording as the electric guitar soloist. Additionally, his new album, Electric Bands, featuring some of his latest chamber works, is now available through Innova Recordings.
Hailing from Baltimore, D. J. lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with his wife Kimberly, son Harris, and their dogs Nanette and Bundini. Sparr is a faculty member at the Walden School’s famed Creative Musicians Retreat in Dublin, New Hampshire. D. J. Sparr’s music is published by Bill Holab Music.