Thomas J. Dempster :: Composer

West Columbia, SC USA


photo: Beth Laderbergh

Thomas Dempster (b. 1980, Michigan) is a composer writing predominantly chamber, electroacoustic, and multimedia works. With nearly 100 completed works, his output ranges from solo miniatures to extended works for orchestra with soloists. His music bears accessible yet decidedly individualistic traits, from tonal references to extended techniques, from use of classical forms to experimental soundscapes and video works. While at home with all instruments and ensembles, Dempster has composed extensively for flute, bassoon, saxophone, and digital media, with an increasing interest in art song, video works, and Jazz. His works have been described as having “an impressive sense of physicality” (Computer Music Journal), and as being “distinct and clever” (Flutist Quarterly) and “restless, aggressive, playful, eerie…a multifaceted, whimsical evocation” (J. Harvey, Indianapolis Star).

This protean and multifaceted background has resulted in his music being widely performed throughout the Western Hemisphere and across Europe including GEMDays Festival (UK), Festivale Di_Stanze (Italy), Saxofoneando (Bolivia), the Irish Sound Science and Technology Association, the Toronto Intenrational Electroacoustic Symposium, the San Francisco New Music Festival, Electronic Music Midwest, Electroacoustic Barn Dance, New York City Electronic Music Festival, International Computer Music Association Conference, the International Double Reed Society, SEAMUS, Society of Composers Inc., College Music Society, the National Flute Association, the North American Saxophone Alliance, NACUSA, and many others. His music has been performed by numerous performers, including bassoonists Daniel Beilman, Barrick Stees, Eric Stomberg, and Michael Burns, saxophonists Russell Thorpe, Paula Van Goes, the h2 Quartet, and Jonathan Helton, flutists Timothy Hagen, Carla Copeland-Burns, and Lisa Bartholow Hanson, piano duo team Duo Korusa (Sujung Cho and Jacob Clark), and numerous wind ensembles, choirs, and chamber groups across the United States.

Dempster is a recipient of awards, honors, and grants from BMI, ASCAP, the South Carolina Arts Commission, the South Carolina Music Teachers Association, Black House Collective, and the Columbia (SC) Museum of Art. He has been a resident with the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, the Osage Arts Community / Mid-Missouri Composers Symposium, and the Cortona Sessions for New Music. He has been commissioned by the Ohio State University New Music Ensemble, the Lamar University Wind Ensemble, the Greenbrook Ensemble, the Blue Mountain Ensemble, the Governor's School of North Carolina, and others. Many of his works are available from Potenza Music Publishing, MusicSpoke Publishing, Navona Records, and Quiet Design Records. He is an affiliate composer of Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI)

Dempster currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Composition at Claflin University in Orangeburg, SC teaching the core theory and skills sequence, counterpoint, and composition. He has previously served on the faculties of the Governor's School of North Carolina, South Carolina State University, and UNC Greensboro.  He is an assistant editor with Jasper magazine (Columbia, SC), a contributor to the new music digest I Care If You Listen, and an album reviewer for the Society for Electroacoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS). He has given lectures on musical aesthetics, intellectual property issues, and musical analysis at CMS, NYCEMF, and SCMEA conferences. He studied at the University of Texas (MM, DMA) with Kevin Puts, Dan Welcher, Russell Pinkston, Donald Grantham, Kevin Beavers, and Bruce Pennycook, and at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (BM) with Eddie Bass, Craig Walsh, and Frank McCarty. He was mentored in theory and pedagogy by Byron Almen, Stefan Kostka, Kent Williams, and Ed Pearsall.

Dempster studied bassoon with Michael Burns, and has had masterclasses and lessons with Kristin Wolfe-Jensen, Bill Davis, William Winstead, and Peter Simpson. Dempster has performed with many orchestras throughout the Southeast, including the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra, the Florence Symphony Orchestra, the Greensboro Philharmonia, and the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra, and is a proponent of extended performance techniques for the bassoon.

A member of numerous organizations (SCI, NACUSA, SCL, SEAMUS, Society for Music Theory, an the International Double Reed Society), Dempster is perhaps most involved with the College Music Society (CMS), where he has been a member since 2002. He has served as Composition Board Chair for the CMS Mid-Atlantic Chapter (2014-2016) and from 2017-2019 will serve as the President-Elect of the Chapter, until assuming role of President from 2019-2021.

Born in an indescribably small town in Michigan, Dempster lived in rural communities during practically all of his childhood, coming of age surrounded by fields with goats, horses, or tobacco, in central North Carolina. Dempster now resides in the Columbia, SC area with his wife, visual artist Kara Gunter. When not teaching, composing, bassooning, or otherwise musicking, Dempster can be found gardening or baking. He is also one half of TommyGunGlass, an art glass scultpure/jewelry concern he runs with his wife Kara.