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As a prolific writer of vocal and instrumental music, Daniel Elder (b. 1986) ties these genres together to create forms and aesthetics that are at once lyrical and textural, drawing its roots particularly from the impressionist movement. Critics have hailed his works as “deeply affecting” and "without peer," with emotional evocations ranging from lush lyricism to jagged polyphony. Daniel’s compositions have won recognition from The American Prize, The Simon Carrington Chamber Singers, Cantus, and many others, including a recording by the Grammy-award-winning Eric Whitacre Singers made at Abbey Road Studios as part of their 80th Anniversary Anthem Competition. The first commercial album of Daniel's choral works, "The Heart's Reflection: Music of Daniel Elder," was released in October 2013 by Westminster Choir College (Princeton, NJ) and Naxos of America, and debuted at #53 on the overall classical Billboard chart. Daniel currently resides in Nashville, TN as a full-time freelance composer. He is published internationally by Carus Verlag, Edition Peters, GIA Publications, Hal Leonard, Imagine Music, Walton Music, and Wingert-Jones Publications, while also self-publishing his newest releases through J.W. Pepper.
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Daniel was born on July 20, 1986 and raised in Jefferson, Georgia as the first of two sons. Including his mother’s second marriage, he is the eldest of six children.
He participated yearly in both baseball and basketball leagues until he was thirteen. At twelve, he had begun training with his school's track and field and cross country teams and by high school graduation would obtain personal bests of 4:21.0 in the 1,600 meter run and 9:30.8 in the 3,200 meter run. As a high school Junior he won the Region 8AAAA Track Championships in both the 1,600m and 3,200m (2003), and as a Senior won the Region 8AAAA Cross Country Championship (2003) and the 1,600m and 3,200m Championships (2004). Other personal bests include 34:07 in the 10,000 meter run and 1:16:54 in the half marathon. Daniel would go on to spend one year privately training before joining the University of Georgia track and cross country teams in 2005 (majoring in Physics). However, he was ultimately unhappy with his pursuits as a student-athlete and resigned in 2006 to turn his full attention to a change of major in Music Composition.
At age eleven Daniel began Trumpet study at West Jackson Middle School (Jefferson, Georgia) with Dennis Turner, continuing through Jackson County Comprehensive High School (Jefferson, Georgia) with Miles Adams, where he participated in Marching, Concert, and Jazz bands. Before leaving the school he obtained the position of first chair in both the Advanced Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band I. He achieved the second chair at the Georgia District 13 Regional Honor Band in 2002 and was the first alternate for the 2002 Georgia All-State Band (Grades 9-10). To facilitate his athletic training, he transferred high schools in January 2003 as a Junior and began study at Clarke Central High School (Athens, Georgia), where he continued musical study by participating in the Athens Youth Symphony under Karl Schab. Upon matriculation to The University of Georgia in 2005, he begin singing in choirs at First Presbyterian Church and with the university's Men's Glee Club and Concert Choir (now the UGA Hodgson Singers), where he first developed a keen interest in the composition of choral music. This passion would stay with him throughout his undergraduate study and eventually lead him to graduate study at Westminster Choir College (Princeton, New Jersey).
Daniel received a Bachelor of Music in Music Composition from The University of Georgia in 2010. While at UGA he studied composition with Drs. Adrian Childs and Roger Vogel, and studied vocal performance with Dr. Stephanie Pierce. In the spring of 2009 he garnered his first awards in composition, at the Georgia Young Composer's Festival (second prize for A Dream Within a Dream) and The Choral Project's Choral Composition Competition (first prize for Lullaby). Then in the fall of 2010 he won first prize in the Arnold Salop Memorial Composition Competition with Due Miniature for woodwind quintet.
He received his Master of Music in Music Composition from Westminster Choir College in 2012, where he studied composition with Drs. Christian Carey and Benjamin Boyle and vocal performance with Devin Mariman. In 2011 he was selected as one of eight global prizewinners in the Abbey Road Studios 80th Anniversary Anthem Competition with The Heart's Reflection. Also in 2011 he was commissioned by the Westminster Choral Festival to write Seven Last Words from the Cross, later toured by the Westminster Choir in 2012. Daniel performed with the Westminster Choir for both years of graduate study, appearing numerous times as a baritone soloist and as the composer of two works performed by the choir during the course of his membership (Seven Last Words from the Cross and The Heart's Reflection). Upon graduation in 2012, Daniel was chosen as the composer of the Class of 2012 Commencement Anthem, performed by the graduating class during Westminster's commencement ceremony at Princeton University Chapel on May 12, 2012 (The Heart's Reflection).
In 2012 Daniel presented his work O Magnum Mysterium at The University of Notre Dame's Sacred Music Conference, and in 2013 was selected as the grand prizewinner of the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers' Composition Competition with the same work. The Westminster Choir recorded his first commercial album in early 2013, released by Naxos of America to critical acclaim in October of that year. In 2014 he placed second in the professional division of The American Prize in Choral Composition with Three Themes of Life and Love. Apart from freelance composition, Daniel also reached the semi-final round of auditions for Staff Arranger with both The United States "President's Own" Marine Band (2014) and The United States Army Field Band (2015).
As a young composer, Daniel was inspired by the mystical work of American composer Morten Lauridsen. During the course of collegiate study, Daniel would further develop deep appreciations for the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Claude Debussy, Arvo Pärt, and numerous other Late Romantic and 20th-Century composers of mystical, impressionistic, and pointillistic forms. Daniel's mature writing style draws heavily on these forms (impressionism and pointillism most prominently) and his vocal work often brings emotion to the forefront over the lyrics themselves, often uniquely encapsulating the mindset of the lyricist. On numerous occasions he has supplied original lyrics to his compositions. In the popular music realm, electronic dance music plays the most significant role among his compositional influences, its trademark repetitions and mood-setting falling in line with the impressionistic technique of landscape-painting through music.
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