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Trombonist Stuart Dempster was born in 1936, and is a native of Berkeley, CA. He studied his instrument at San Francisco State College (receiving a B.A. in performance and an M.A. in composition), and during the early to mid-'60s was the principal trombone with the Oakland Symphony under Gerhard Samuel, as well as a member of the Performing Group at Mills College, plus a music teacher (at both the San Francisco Conservatory and at California State College at Hayward).
Throughout the remainder of the '60s and the '70s, Dempster taught at a variety of colleges, including the University of Buffalo, the University of Washington Seattle (the latter a position he holds into the 2000s), the Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois, and even in Australia and England. But Dempster continued playing as a solo recitalist, touring throughout the U.S. and Europe, and appearing on several albums issued via such labels as Columbia and Nonesuch.
Besides teaching and playing, Dempster also regularly commissions new works for his instrument, and specializes in searching out (and performing) more obscure and older works for trombone. 1976 saw Dempster record some of his work for what would eventually be issued as his first solo release, In the Great Abby of Clement VI (recorded during a European tour with Merce Cunningham), which led to solo performances of the album's compositions. Subsequent tours saw Dempster showcase commissioned works (by such esteemed composers as Luciano Berio, Donald Erb, Robert Erickson, Andrew Inbrie, Ernst Krenek, and Robert Suderburg), and in 1979, he published his first book via the University of California Press, titled The Modern Trombone: A Definition of Its Idioms.
The accolades kept coming Dempster's way, as evidenced by the Guggenheim Fellowship award he received in 1981. Further original compositions continued to be premiered in front of audiences (which included many "singing audience" parts), including 1982's Hornfinder in Scotland and 1983's Roulette in New York. Dempster continues to play and record, as 1995 saw the release of his second solo release, Underground Overlays From the Cistern Chapel.