2012 Forward under 40 Award Honoree
UW Major: Music Performance
Age: 37 | Tuscaloosa, AL
Associate Professor of Music at the University of Alabama
Demondrae Thurman hits so many notes in his busy life that the cadence belies the mellow tones of his horn, the euphonium. A brass instrument smaller than a tuba, the euphonium is rarely called upon in a symphony orchestra's repertoire, but Thurman's solo and quartet prowess has brought the instrument onto center stage. Its sound has taken him across the world for performances and clinics: France, Germany, England, Norway, Hungary, and China.
From backing up the Temptations to performing at Madison's Chazen Art Museum, Thurman acts as a role model for young African-American musicians, keeps a busy teaching schedule, and recently became director of the University of Alabama Symphony Orchestra. Thurman also excels at the trombone, baritone, and bass trumpet.
Thurman is a founding member and musical leader of the internationally acclaimed Sotto Voce Quartet, which features two euphoniums and two tubas. The group has three recordings on a major brass recording label with Thurman featured on two solo efforts.
Thurman's teaching is renowned, and his students in low brass performance have been nationally recognized. John Stevens, UW professor of music and a mentor to Thurman, says his former student is highly regarded internationally as a performer and teacher: "In reality, he has occupied a position of extremely high esteem in the field since his mid-twenties," Stevens says.
Thurman has been a leading advocate for the euphonium and its increasing popularity through commissioning or premiering more than ten new works for solo euphonium or euphonium in a chamber setting.
The musician's ties to Madison, his colleagues, and teachers is tight, despite the fact that he had never visited Madison or even spent more than two weeks outside of his hometown of Tuscaloosa before his graduate studies began. His former classmates are now his musical collaborators. Stevens, whom Thurman says "is like a father to me," wrote the music for Sotto Voce's first CD and Thurman's first solo CD. The Alabama professor's most recent CD features Martha Fischer, UW associate professor of collaborative piano.
"The same people who have had such a great impact on my professional life have also become some of my dearest friends," Thurman says.
In his own words
What is the one thing every UW student must do?
Every UW student must go to the farmers' market at the Capitol on Saturday mornings in fall. There is nothing like that anywhere!
What do you do in your free time?
I wish I had free time, but when I carve it out, I tend to watch or play sports. I'm fond of boxing, basketball and football.
What was your first job?
Picking up trash from major highways as a 15-year-old.
What's your guilty pleasure?
CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES! Warm them, please.
If you could trade places with any person for a week, with whom would it be?
Mike Tyson — I would like to have offered his mind and body the notion that with hard work, dedication, and a good environment along with his talent, he could have been the greatest boxer and one of the greatest ambassadors the world has seen.