Ep. 39: World-Class Composer Fills His Plate With Pragmatism

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Richard DeRosa received a Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Composition in 2015 for his big band composition “Neil”. He is a tenured full professor and Director of Jazz Composition and Arranging at the University of North Texas. 

Mr. DeRosa’s most recent project was Joey Alexander with Strings where he served as conductor and arranger. The concerts premiered at Jazz at Lincoln Center in October 2018.

Since 2012 he has conducted and arranged music for the West Deutsche Rundfunk (WDR) Big Band in Cologne, Germany, and served as its chief conductor from 2014 – 2016. Amongst those projects, Mr. DeRosa arranged and conducted the music of featured legendary jazz bassist Ron Carter on the CD recording My Personal Songbook (2015) and the CD Rediscovered Ellington (2017) that features Garry Dial and Dick Oatts. Together they created unique and modern arrangements of rare and unheard tunes by the Duke. Other projects with world-renowned artists with Patti Austin, Kurt Elling, Joshua Redman, Stefon Harris, the New York Voices, Richie Beirach and Gregor Huebner, Marvin Stamm and Bill Mays, Ola Onabulé, and Warren Vaché. 

Since 2001, Mr. DeRosa has arranged and conducted music for Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra featuring Renée Fleming, Norah Jones, Willie Nelson, Annie Ross, Abbey Lincoln, and Toots Thielemans among others. In 2005 he was a featured arranger for the Wynton With Strings concert. In November 2013, DeRosa contributed eight arrangements for Stephen Sondheim’s A Bed and a Chair: A New York Love Affair starring Bernadette Peters and premiered by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. His most recent project for the JLCO was Bernstein at 100.

Other commissioned arrangements have been recorded by the Mel Lewis, Gerry Mulligan, and Glenn Miller big bands, vocalist Susannah McCorkle, rising trumpet star Dominick Farinacci and acclaimed solo violinist Anne Akiko Meyers. Commissioned arrangements for orchestra include the Kansas City Symphony, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the New York Pops, the Portland Maine Pops, the Czech National Symphony, the Metropole Orchestra, and the Swedish Television and Radio Orchestra. 

His publications for public school jazz ensembles are available through Alfred Music (Belwin Jazz), Smart Chart Music, J.W. Pepper, Barnhouse Music, while several of his works for professional bands are available through Sierra Music.

Mr. DeRosa remains active as an adjudicator and clinician for school programs and music festivals.

Topics discussed:

  • Developing natural ability
  • Apprenticeship
  • Tenured teaching positions
  • Marketability
  • Getting paid to write music
  • Understanding multiple instruments, styles and genres
  • Failure
  • Responsibility
  • Variable income
  • Criticism
  • Capturing the mood of a film
  • Financial pragmatism
  • Standard of living
  • Debt
  • Credit cards
  • Taxes
  • Qualifying for loans
  • Gender issues

Resources & names mentioned:

Connect with Rich:


[email protected] 


Thanks for listening and keep thriving!


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