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Eric Banks

Director

Eric Banks

Conductor, composer, instructor, vocalist, linguist, and ethnomusicologist, Eric Banks has garnered significant acclaim as one of the most creative and compelling choral directors in the United States - for his unwavering commitment to new music for unaccompanied voices. In 1992, Eric founded The Esoterics, a professional-caliber chamber chorus in Seattle whose mission is to perform and perpetuate contemporary choral music beyond the scope of the established a cappella canon. In 2004, Banks founded yet another group, the all-male vocal ensemble AEDONIS, whose mission is to perform choral music exclusively by gay and lesbian composers.

After completing his BA in Composition at Yale University in 1990, Eric relocated to Seattle to study in the departments of Choral Studies and Music Theory at the University of Washington. His MM thesis (1992) is a performance edition of Dixit Dominus by Chiara Margarita Cozzolani; his MA thesis (1995) is a postmodern analysis of Arvo Part's symphonic Credo; and his DMA dissertation (1996) surveys the choral music of Mexican composer and Aztec ethnomusicologist Carlos Chavez. In 1997, at the conclusion of his graduate study, Banks traveled to Sweden as a Fulbright Scholar and Lois Roth Fellow in order to learn more about its contemporary choral culture. While in Stockholm, Eric sang as a chorister and soloist with several ensembles, including the Swedish Radio Choir and the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir.

In his music, Eric is drawn to ideas that are 'esoteric' in origin, and chooses to express concepts that are undiscovered, under-represented, or not easily decipherable to a wider audience. As a composer, Banks has been able to combine his love of poetry, foreign language, classical civilization, comparative religion, and astronomy, to create a growing repertoire for a cappella chorus. His compositions include Celestial Wystan (2001, a triptych of poems by WH Auden), Onomata planeton (2002, intoning the moons in the solar system), Tabula siderum zodiaco (2002, mapping the stars of the zodiac), Javdani (2003, setting quatrains on the afterlife by Rumi), Sonetti d'amore (2005-2006, a cantata of Italian love sonnets by Michelangelo), and Twelve Qur'anic visions (2005-2007, a dreamscape of sacred verses in Arabic).

Eric's upcoming composition projects include: Saraswati (a Sanskrit mantra to the Hindu goddess of music), The seven creations (a choral opera based on the ancient chants and scriptures of the Persian cosmology), Shadows of love (a cycle setting the Greek verses of Constantine Cavafy), MCXL (a pacifist entry from the Notebook of Leonardo da Vinci), and Six love poems (after the American poetess Adrienne Rich). Banks' commissioned works have been recorded by The Esoterics or AEDONIS, and can be found on CDs released on the Terpsichore label. Eric is currently working on new commissions for Conspirare in Austin and the Kansas City Chorale.

Eric has taught music theory, musicianship, composition, and voice at Cornish College of the Arts since 2004. He has been a visiting scholar at the Royal Conservatory of Music and Swedish National Radio in Stockholm, as well as at the Cama Oriental Institute in Bombay, India. Eric has been awarded composition grants from the Cornish Faculty Development Fund, 4Culture, Seattle CityArtists, and recent fellowship by Artist Trust and the Washington State Arts Commission. Eric is a member of ASCAP, and serves on the editorial board for Cantemus, the biennial compendium of the International Federation of Choral Music. Eric lives in West Seattle with David Gellman, his partner of eleven years (who is also The Esoterics' graphic design guru), along with their perpetually vocalizing felines, Sapphire and Topaz.

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