Music found me when I was around nine. I don’t come from a family of musicians, but music gave me a voice, a purpose, and eventually a community. This is why I’ve never wanted to do anything else with my life other than be involved with music in some way—every way. These last two words are the reason many of us become composers, we love being involved in many sides of music-making. For me this has meant playing piano and various wind instruments, collaborating with inspiring artists both seasoned and emerging, teaching and learning from diverse and passionate students, and of course writing a lot of notes. From the early days of tricking my neighborhood piano teacher into believing that I was reading music, to day one as a music major at Lane Community College, to my doctoral hooding eleven years after that, I’ve been able to develop my skills by attending some incredible music schools and learn from the perfect lineup of teachers to help me turn all of this into a career.

Presently, I am a few years out of school working on a consistent lineup of commissioned concert works, teaching traditional music classes as a faculty member at Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan, establishing a grassroots troupe of outspoken teacher-artist-activists called Trade Winds Ensemble, working on a major critical edition of George Gershwin’s music at the University of Michigan, and teaching knitting and crochet lessons on weekends at a beautiful family-owned yarn shop in Ann Arbor. The above activities enable me to exercise my passion for teaching, creativity, community building, service, and promoting the vitality of the arts—all by doing what brings me joy.

Photo by Luis Escareño

Photo by Luis Escareño

Professional Bio

Brandon Scott Rumsey is a composer, bassoonist, and teacher based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His compositions frequently explore themes of love, nature, and conversation. Brandon is on faculty at Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan, is a teaching artist with the Trade Winds Ensemble, is a lead editorial assistant at the Gershwin Critical Edition, and is the artistic director and bassoonist of the Emblems Quintet.

Reviewers and collaborators have described his music as “haunting,” “lovely,” “dark and thoughtful,” and having “conviction, emotional depth, and vitality.” Most recently, his concert music has been featured by Third Angle New Music (Portland, OR) and Tony Arnold, the Contemporary Undercurrent of Song Project (Princeton, NJ), New York Festival of Song, sTem Trio (NYC), and Boston New Music Initiative. Upcoming performances of new works include Silhouettes commissioned by bassoonist and University of Michigan faculty member Jeffrey Lyman and Crystals: On Empathy, composed for the newly-formed Back Pocket Duo (Ann Arbor, MI). Beyond the concert hall, Brandon has composed and arranged for musical theatre and has written incidental music for numerous contemporary plays.

Brandon’s research and pedagogy engages queer and feminist theory and social activism in order to advance research and performance of marginalized musicians and their work. In 2015, Brandon co-founded the Emblems Quintet, a woodwind quintet/artist collective committed to education, inclusive- and equity-conscious programming, and performing exciting overlooked repertoire. In 2016, Brandon joined the Trade Winds Ensemble as a teaching artist. TWE has collaborated with partner organizations throughout East Africa, Tanzania, Chicago, Haiti, and in 2019, Detroit/Ypsilanti to create curricula that fit the unique needs of the children the organization serves. So far, this has meant one-, two-, or three-week residencies which involve experimental composition exercises, creative writing activities, opportunity for self-reflection, body-percussion improvisation, song-writing in teams, drama games, and, if this form of study is relevant and available to our students, instrumental instruction. Brandon joined the faculty of Madonna University in 2017 where he teaches music theory, composition, music technology, and music management.

Brandon holds a doctoral degree in Composition and a Graduate Certificate in LGBTQ Studies at the University of Michigan. He holds a master’s degree in composition from The University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s degree in composition from University of Oregon. His influential teachers and mentors include Gabriela Lena Frank, Evan Chambers, Kristin Kuster, Robert Livingston Aldridge, David Dzubay, Dan Welcher, David Crumb, Robert Kyr, Idit Shner, Steve Vacchi, Kristin Wolfe Jensen, and Jeffrey Lyman.