Alex Canovas / Artistic Director

YNYC Young Composers Competition Finalist – Sawyer Denton

On Saturday, June 1, 2019, YNYC’s Women’s Ensembles will perform ‘A Bell Awakened’ – An exploration of what the power of women can make possible, with repertoire that’s co-curated with the Women’s Ensemble.  This concert features world premiere works from our Competition for Young Composers.

We are pleased to introduce our third finalist for YNYC’s 2019 Competition for Young Composers, Sawyer Denton!


Sawyer Denton is a composer, conductor, and arranger from the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. Growing up as a singer, he was always drawn to soaring melodies and driving rhythms that lingered in the ears of listeners. Today, his writing is characterized by similar intricate rhythmic patterns and floating, lyrical themes. Many of his concert works show a special interest in the natural world as a source of musical inspiration, including Dreams of the Canyon (2015), The Seismic Sea (2016) and Gaia: Spirit of Earth (2017). Sawyer works across genres, and 2019 will see the premiere of his score to the film “Michigan Man: The Red Berenson Story,” as well as his songs and score to the upcoming staging of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” at the Power Center for the Performing Arts.

Sawyer studied music composition under celebrated composers Evan Chambers, Michael Daugherty, Kristin Kuster, and Bright Sheng at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. There, he also studied choral and orchestral conducting with Eugene Rogers and Oriol Sans. His choral music is published by Hal Leonard


What makes you come alive?

The idea of pushing musicians to the edge of their ability and then watching them succeed galvanizes something within me to try to do my best work time and again, and brings the composing process to life.

What drew you to the text you set for your piece?

Emily Bronte lived a difficult life and died at the age of thirty of tuberculosis, but somewhere in her suffering, she crafted herself a spine of steel, which comes across powerfully in her words, as witnessed by her full fledged, foot-stomping assertion “No Coward Soul Is Mine”.

What was one significant thing you learned in writing for a women’s ensemble?

The limitations in range when working with a womens’ ensemble impact the sheer size of the full ensemble sound, but also allows for moments of much more intimate, chamber-styled singing. I learned to try to balance those moments to the best of my ability.

Who are your biggest musical influences?

Ludwig van Beethoven, Gustav Mahler, Dmitri Shostakovich, Eric Copeland, Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, John Corigliano, John Adams, John Williams, Ennio Morricone, The Beatles, various Motown artists, Simon and Garunkel, and Jim Croce

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