Just the Basics
Aaron Gervais is a composer based in San Francisco, originally from Edmonton, Canada. Chamber music, vocal music, and opera feature most prominently in his output, which critics often describe as eclectic and playful. Aaron also writes avidly about issues facing classical music in the 21st century, publishing to his blog and a number of music journals. His music is performed across North America and Europe, and he has been featured on major festivals, including Gaudeamus, MATA, and Other Minds. Aaron’s formal training includes a B.Mus from the University of Toronto and an M.A. in composition from UC San Diego. When not working on musical projects, Aaron likes to cook.
Based in San Francisco, composer Aaron Gervais works with ensembles and presenters across North America and Europe. He is particularly interested in humour, found materials, quotation/collage, and the sociological aspects of how people use music. As such, Aaron’s output ranges from the introspectively sombre to the irreverently slapstick, and critics have described his musical approach with statements from “I cried tears of laughter” to “unique, unsettling” and “this is just really great fun.” Over the past few years, Aaron’s work has centered around chamber music, vocal music, and opera, although orchestral music, live electronics, and pieces for dance and theatre also feature in his work.
Groups that have presented Aaron’s music include G27 Orchestra, the Nieuw Ensemble, Artists’ Vocal Ensemble, Quatuor Bozzini, Momenta Quartet, Tapestry New Opera, Orkest de Ereprijs, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the Knights Orchestra, Ensemble Klang, and the London Sinfonietta among others. He has also appeared on prominent festivals, including Amsterdam’s Gaudeamus Music Week, Toronto’s New Wave, soundaXis, and SHIFT festivals, Aberdeen’s Sound Festival, New York’s MATA Festival, and San Francisco’s Other Minds Festival. Awards include the orkest de ereprijs’s International Young Composers Competition, an ASCAP Gould Award, and six prizes in Canada’s SOCAN Awards for Young Composers among others.
In addition to composing, Aaron is also an avid critical writer, publishing articles on the economic and philosophical issues facing new music. In particular, his pieces on the problematic nature of arts entrepreneurship have garnered widespread attention and are among the most viral articles on the subject anywhere online. In addition to posting on his blog at aarongervais.com, several music publications have published his writing, including MusicWorks, Music-on-Main, NewMusicBox, and CultureBot.
Aaron holds a B.Mus from the University of Toronto and a master’s degree in composition from UC San Diego. He has also studied at the Koninklijk Conservatorium in the Netherlands. When not composing, Aaron enjoys undertaking culinary projects and throwing dinner parties. The Art Music Promotion agency represents his music.
President, Executive Director
Devise strategies to grow a core audience for the Elevate Ensemble outside of the niche new music community and to increase revenue streams via crowdfunding, philanthropy, and grant writing.
Provide Mobius Trio with consultative services on strategic development, audience building, marketing, grant writing, and so forth.
Composition of a new piece, educational outreach, and blogging on themes related to contemporary classical music.
Vancouver Pro Musica
Conduct masterclasses and outreach, participate in musical discussions, rehearse with musicians, and present some of my music as part of the annual Sonic Boom festival.
Quatuor Bozzini Composers Kitchen
Workshop and residency with the string quartet. Development and performance of new work.
Adjudicator/judge, numerous occasions
JUNO Awards, Classical Composition of the Year Category
Jules Leger Prize for New Canadian Chamber Music
Multiple other composition awards/competitions
Consultant and Web Writer
San Francisco Contemporary Music Players
Developing and implementing strategies for audience building. Involving graduate students from San Francisco–area music departments in volunteer publicity activities for the ensemble. Writing interviews.
Chamber Music Conference and Composers’ Forum of the East
Bennington VT, USA
By invitation. Duties include composing a work for amateur musicians and coaching the ensemble.
orkest de ereprijs Young Composers Meeting
Apeldoorn, the Netherlands
Winner of the 2009 competition. Wrote a piece for the ensemble, participated in masterclasses.
Recycled 80s Live
Conceived and organized the creation of a concert-length, amplified piece for nightclubs based on quotations of ‘80s pop songs, including composition of the score, hiring of musicians, arranging for performances, and creating audio–video support materials.
Banff Centre Fall Creative Music Residency
Koninklijk Conservatorium Residency
the Hague, the Netherlands
Professional development residency and composition masterclasses with Martijn Padding.
Domaine Forget Academy New Music Seminar
St-Irénée QC, Canada
Participated in masterclasses. Rehearsals and performance with the Nouvel ensemble moderne.
Arditti Quartet Residency, UC San Diego Visiting Artist Program
San Diego, USA
Composed a piece for the Arditti Quartet. Rehearsals, recording, and masterclasses with the quartet.
University of California, San Diego>
Preparation: Three-month, intensive pedagogy seminar on teaching critical reading and writing to undergraduates.
Duties: Attending lectures and meetings with professors, creating lesson plans based on course reading, teaching classes, holding office hours, helping students develop research papers, and grading written assignments and exams.
Classes Taught: (Music) MUS1B Music Theory, MUS12 Intro to Opera, MUS4 Introduction to Western Music History, LTEN159 Popular Music of the ‘60s; (World Literature) MMW2 The Great Classical Traditions, MMW3 The Medieval Heritage.
Composer in Residence
Ensemble contemporain de Montréal Génération 2006
Wrote a piece for the ensemble, gave a masterclass on my music at the École de musique Vincent d’Indy, rehearsals with student musicians, workshop and rehearsals with the ensemble, cross-Canada tour.
Tapestry New Opera Works Composer–Librettist Laboratory
Composition of four short opera scenes with four librettists, daily masterclasses and discussions, rehearsals with performers, performances.
University of Toronto Contemporary Opera Showcase Programme
Only undergraduate student invited to participate. Wrote a chamber opera for U of T students, rehearsed with the singers and ensemble, held meetings with the music director.
Artistic Director, Organizer
University of Toronto – Harvard Composition Exchange
Organized a student-run exchange between composition students at both universities. Curated a concert of student works.
M.A. in Composition, University of California, San Diego
Composition study with Chinary Ung and Philippe Manoury.
B.Mus. in Composition, University of Toronto
(Additionally: Jazz Performance, 2002–2003)
Graduated with honours. Composition study with Chan Ka Nin, John Hawkins, and Alexander Rapoport; percussion study with Bob McLaren.
B.A. in Composition, University of Alberta
Composition study with Howard Bashaw; percussion study with Brian Jones. Transferred to the University of Toronto in 2002.
Music Diplomas in Composition and Jazz, Grant MacEwan College
Graduated with honours. Composition study with Gordon Nicholson; percussion study with Brian Thurgood.
Composition and Folkloric Cuban Percussion Studies, Havana, Cuba
Composition: Guido López-Gavilán, Instituto Superior de Arte.
Batá drumming: Tony Urdaneto, Ballet Folklórico Nacional.
Rumba drumming: Raul González, Conjunto Clave y Guaguancó.
- Canada Council for the Arts, Commissioning Grants (multiple years)
- SOCAN Awards for Young Composers (multiple years)
- ASCAP Foundation, Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, honorable mention
- Dilettante, International Digital Composer-in-Residence Competition (London, UK), finalist
- Alberta Creative Development Initiative Grant
- orkest de ereprijs Young Composers Competition, first prize
- Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Emerging Artist Award
- Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Music Grant
- Culture no.3 selected by the ISCM Canadian Section as part of their submission to the 2008 ISCM World Music Days in Lithuania
- International Gaudeamus Music Week, Amsterdam, finalist
- SOCAN Foundation, Composer Residency Grant (Ensemble contemporain de Montréal)
- Neil D. Graham and William Erving Fairclough Graduating Scholarships (University of Toronto)
- George Coutts and Gwendolyn Grant Academic Scholarships (University of Toronto)
- TrypTych Toronto Young Composers’ Competition, first prize
- Monica Ryckman and Ben McPeek Academic Scholarships (University of Toronto)
- English – Mother tongue, completely fluent, principal language of study
- French – Spoken at home since childhood, completely fluent, used for research and study
- Spanish – Strong reading, writing, and oral fluency; used for research and study
- Art Music Promotion (agency), represented by
- Center for New Music San Francisco, founding member
- Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN)
- Canadian Music Centre, Associate Composer
- Canadian League of Composers