San Francisco Bay Area composer, Brent
Heisinger (1937), was born and raised in Stockton, California,
began piano study at five and trombone lessons at seven. He
and his physician brother Dale received musical training from
their father, an exceptional band director, and both were highly
influenced by their mother, a patron of literary and musical
arts. At the age of 16, he
studied piano at the Music Conservatory of College of the Pacific where
his father was Director of Bands. After his schooling in the
Stockton public schools where he played trombone in bands and
attended Stockton Junior College (now San Joaquin Delta College) and
transferred to San
José State University where he received his Bachelor
of Arts and Master of Arts degrees. As an undergraduate,
he continued his piano and trombone studies, formed a quartet
to play for dances, and arranged for the marching band. He
began serious composition studies with Frank Erickson and Stanley
Hollingsworth during his graduate years there.
After teaching music in elementary and secondary schools for four years, he
completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Stanford University where he
studied composition with Leland Smith and Humphrey Searle. He joined the
music faculty at San José State University and during his tenure conducted
choral and wind ensembles, taught trombone, piano, conducting and composition,
and served as Theory/Musicianship Area Coordinator. Heisinger also was active
as a clinician, speaker, and consultant for the Contemporary Music Project
(funded by the Ford Foundation and the Music Educators National Conference),
which promoted the idea of comprehensive musicianship; he authored several
articles and three textbooks on the topic. Among his most significant writings
are the articles “American Minimalism in the 80s” published in The
Journal of American Music and “Compositional Devices in Steve Reich’s
Octet” which appeared in Ex Tempore.
While at San José State University, he was presented the School of Humanities
and Arts Certificate of Distinction, selected as a Teacher Scholar, named Outstanding
San José State University Music Alumnus, nominated for the Carnegie
Foundation United States Outstanding Professor Award, and awarded the distinguished
President’s Scholar Award.
Influenced by the likes of Stravinsky, Bartók, Gershwin, Lou Harrison,
Steve Reich, and great jazz performers, Heisinger says about his music, “My
works bounce from one palette to another. I have no desire to own a style.” This
is evidenced in the diversity of his music much of which has been published
and performed throughout the world. Nubes Aztecas (Invocación y
Canto) commissioned by The Choral Project of San José, received
performances in Mexico and Costa Rica, Essay for Band and March for Timpani
and Brass are popular in western Europe, Eklektikos— In Five
Pieces, has seen performances throughout the U.S., and by French pianist
Voya Toncitch in Israel, Finland, Taiwan, Brazil, Singapore, Manila, and India.
Also, A Walk Within Winter (composed for pianist Donna Stoering) has
been heard in Russia, Finland, Switzerland, Poland, England, Brazil, and Germany.
Heisinger’s Concerto No.2 for Piano and Wind Ensemble has received
two first prize awards and 2nd prize at the 5th International Composition Competition
(“Coups de Vent”) in Le Havre, France. Both the United States Air
Force and Navy Bands have performed his symphonic band music. In a new direction
involving considerable improvisation, Ekta (“oneness”),
commissioned by the San José Chamber Orchestra and scored for solo piano,
jazz rhythm section, tabla, string orchestra with two percussionists, was premiered
in 2005. The unusual integration of an Indian raga and tals, American jazz
in a “classical” setting, was enthusiastically received. Soulscape, his most recent work, (2010) was commissioned and premiered by The Ohlone Wind Orchestra of California.
As Emeritus Professor of Music, Brent Heisinger is active composing and supporting
the San José State University School of Music and Dance and oversees
his own HBH Publishing. He and his wife Barbara reside in San José and
enjoy the families of their three sons Dean, Doug, and Kurt.
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