Anthony Branker (born August 28, 1958) is an American musician and educator of Caribbean descent whose work as a composer, educator, scholar, conductor, and performer has been featured on the international stage in Brazil, Switzerland, Poland, Finland, Italy, Estonia, Denmark, Greece, China, Australia, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Russia, Lithuania, and Japan as well as throughout the United States. Branker was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey and raised in Piscataway and Plainfield, New Jersey. He attended public schools in Piscataway and graduated from Piscataway High School where he was involved in the music program under the direction of R. Bruce Bradshaw and Joseph T. Mundi. Following high school, Branker attended Princeton University where he received his B.A. in Music and a Certificate in African American Studies. His graduate studies took him to the University of Miami for a Master of Music in Jazz Pedagogy and later to Columbia University, Teachers College where he received the degrees of Master of Education and Doctor of Education; both with specialties in Music and Music Education.
Branker's family hails from Trinidad and Barbados and he is a first-generation American. He comes from a musical extended family that includes his uncle Rupert Branker who was the music director and pianist with The Platters. Another uncle, pianist Roy Branker was with the Copasetics, a fraternity of male musicians in Harlem organized after the death of William "Bojangles" Robinson, primarily to support dance. Billy Strayhorn was a member of that group and Roy wrote music with Strayhorn (Roy was mentioned in Duke Ellington's autobiography, "Music is My Mistress"). Roy Branker was also a member of a trio called The Three Peppers. Anthony Branker's cousin, Nicholas Brancker, who spells his last name slightly different, is from Barbados. He's a music producer and bassist who has worked with Roberta Flack, Cyndi Lauper, Simply Red, Shabba Ranks and Lord Mouse and the Kalypso Katz. Nicholas was also nominated for a Grammy Award for a jazz piece on flutist Sherry Winston's album "Love Is.".
Dr. Anthony Branker recently retired from Princeton University where he was a member of the faculty for 27 years, held an endowed chair in jazz studies, and served as founding director of the Program in Jazz Studies, director of university jazz ensembles program, and associate director of the Program in Musical Performance. While at Princeton, he directed an extensive list of ensembles and taught courses in jazz theory through improvisation & composition, jazz performance practice in historical and cultural context, jazz composition, the evolution of jazz styles, and the improvising ensemble. Dr. Branker has served as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar and visiting professor at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in Tallinn, Estonia, and has been a member of the faculty at the Manhattan School of Music, Rutgers University/Mason Gross School of the Arts, Hunter College of the City University of New York, Ursinus College, The Hill School, and the New Jersey Summer Arts Institute. In addition, Dr. Branker was visiting composer at the Southern Danish Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Esbjerg, Denmark; Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg, Germany; Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre; and for "Crossing Borders" – the Socrates/Erasmus Intensive Programme in cooperation with the European Union, the Association of Baltic Academies of Music, and the Estonian Academy of Music & Theatre.
The music of composer Anthony Branker stands firmly on jazz traditions while simultaneously pushing the boundaries in bold and beautiful new directions. Recently, his 2016 "Beauty Within" recording was the winner of 3 Gold Medal Awards from Global Music Awards in the categories of "Album" (Beauty Within), "Group" (Anthony Branker & Imagine), and "Genre" (Eclectic Jazz Fusion). Past Global Music Award Gold Medalists in jazz have included Esperanza Spalding, Omar Sosa, Melissa Aldana, and John Daversa. In 2014 & 2015, Branker was named in Down Beat magazine's 62nd & 63rd Annual International Critics Poll as a "Rising Star Composer." Branker has recorded for Origin Records and Sons of Sound Records and has eight releases in his fast growing and musically rich discography. They include: Beauty Within (Origin, 2016), The Forward (Towards Equality) Suite (Origin, 2014), Uppity (Origin, 2013), Together (Origin, 2012), Dialogic (Origin, 2011), Dance Music (Origin, 2010), Blessings (Origin, 2009), and Spirit Songs (Sons of Sound, 2006). Dr. Branker leads three jazz collectives for his recording projects that include Imagine, Word Play and Ascent, which have featured Ralph Bowen, Fabian Almazan, Linda Oh, Rudy Royston, Pete McCann, David Binney, Mark Gross, Tia Fuller, Steve Wilson, Antonio Hart, Conrad Herwig, Clifford Adams, Andy Hunter, Eli Asher, Jonny King, Jim Ridl, Bryan Carrott, Kenny Davis, John Benitez, Belden Bullock, Donald Edwards, Adam Cruz, Ralph Peterson Jr., Wilby Fletcher, Renato Thoms, Kadri Voorand, Alison Crockett, and Freddie Bryant.
Dr. Branker has received composition prizes, commissions, served as composer-in-residence, and has had his music featured in performance in Poland, Italy, Denmark, Finland, France, Estonia, Russia, Australia, China, Germany, Lithuania, Japan, and throughout the United States in such venues as Duc des Lombards Jazz Club (Paris, France), Vibe Jazz Club (Hong Kong, China), Philly Joe’s Jazz Club (Tallinn, Estonia), Sweet Basil's Jazz Club (NY), Iridium Jazz Club (NY), Smalls Jazz Club (NY), The Five Spot (NY), The Cutting Room (NY), Symphony Space (NY), Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture (NY), Sydney Conservatorium of Music (Sydney, Australia), Estonian Academy of Music & Theatre (Tallinn, Estonia), Hochschule für Musik und Theater (Hamburg, Germany), Theatre No. 99 (Tallinn, Estonia), Pori International Jazz Festival (Pori, Finland), Mt. Fuji Jazz Festival (Mt. Fuji, Japan), Leningrad/St. Petersburg International Jazz Festival (St. Petersburg, Russia), “Good Music” Festival, (Esbjerg, Denmark), Panasonic Village Jazz Festival (NY), JVC Jazz Festival (NY), North Texas Jazz Festival (Addison, Texas), Kaunas International Jazz Festival (Kaunas, Lithuania), Estonia International Jazz Festival (Tartu, Estonia), Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University (Princeton, NJ), Lang Recital Hall, Hunter College-CUNY (NY), the Fez under Time Café (NY), Trumpets Jazz Club (NJ), and the Puffin Cultural Theatre (NJ). Dr. Branker's music has also been performed and/or recorded by the Princeton University Orchestra, Orrin Evans, Talib Kibwe (T.K. Blue), Kenny Barron, Eddie Henderson, Victor Lewis, Steve Nelson, Stanley Jordan, Winard Harper, Joe Ford, Benny Carter, John Hicks, Valery Ponomarev, Cecil Brooks III, Onaje Allen Gumbs, Alex Blake, Sarah Jane Cion, Michael Cochrane, Jann Parker, Curtis Lundy, James Weidman, Steve Kroon, Rick Margitza, Marc Bernstein, and the Spirit of Life Ensemble.
As a conductor, Dr. Branker has worked with such artists as Clark Terry, Phil Woods, Slide Hampton, Jimmy Heath, Jon Faddis, Ted Curson, Oliver Lake, Frank Foster, Benny Carter, Conrad Herwig, Stanley Jordan, Ralph Bowen, Bobby Watson, Steve Nelson, Bob Mintzer, Don Braden, Ralph Peterson Jr., Orrin Evans, Bryan Carrott, Mark Gross, Antonio Hart, Freddie Hendrix, Jonny King, Clifford Adams, Jacky Terrasson, Benny Powell, Michael Philip Mossman, Jim Ridl, Rick Margitza, Jeffery Smith, Walt Weiskopf, Valery Ponomarev, Guilherme Franco, Renato Thoms, Alison Crockett, Marc Bernstein, Winston Byrd, and Patience Higgins. Dr. Branker has also conducted trumpeter Terence Blanchard's Grammy Award-Winning score for "A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina)" featuring Blanchard and His Quintet along with tenor saxophonist Brice Winston, pianist Fabian Almazan, bassist Joshua Crumbly, drummer Kendrick Scott, and members of the Princeton University and Rutgers University orchestras.
In 2014, Dr. Branker conducted Pulitzer Prize Winning Composer Wynton Marsalis' "Abyssinian 200: A Gospel Celebration" featuring the Princeton University Glee Club and University Concert Jazz Ensemble. He has also led the Princeton University Orchestra in the world premiere of his composition "Ballad for Trayvon Martin" for Orchestra and Jazz Quartet featuring tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen, as well as in world premieres of two dance works choreographed to the orchestral music of Claude Debussy's "La Boîte à Joujoux (The Toy Box)" – including the U.S. Premiere of Debussy's newly discovered "jazz overture" for this work – and John Alden Carpenter's "Krazy Kat." Dr. Branker has also conducted Princeton's Orchestra in performances of Ellington's extended orchestral compositions "A Tone Parallel to Harlem" and "New World A Comin'." In addition, he has conducted "The Sacred Concert Music of Duke Ellington" with the Princeton University Chapel Choir, Glee Club and Gospel Ensemble as well as the Ellington/Strayhorn collaborative adaptations of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" and Edvard Grieg's "Peer Gynt Suites Nos. 1 & 2" for big band.
Dr. Branker has conducted several world premieres of commissioned works for big band, that have included Michael Philip Mossman's "John Coltrane Suite"; Bob Mintzer's "March Majestic"; Jimmy Heath's "For the Love Of"; Ralph Bowen's "Little Miss B"; Conrad Herwig's "Reflections of a Man Facing South"; Randy Bauer's "Wide-Eyed Wonder"; and Laurie Altman's "In Another Time" for orchestra, big band and vocal ensemble. Branker has also collaborated with the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra and conductors Wycliffe Gordon, Loren Schoenberg, and Cecil Bridgewater on joint big band performances of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's Far East Suite and Ellington's New Orleans Suite at McCarter Theatre in Princeton.
Dr. Branker has also appeared as conductor with the Jugend Sinfonie Orchester (Bremen, Germany), Israel's Kiryat Ono Symphonic Youth Band, Japan's Fukui Junior Orchestra, Estonian Academy of Music Big Band (Tallinn, Estonia), Hunter Jazz Repertory Orchestra (New York), Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts Jazz Ensemble, the New Jersey High School All State Jazz Ensemble, the New Jersey Intercollegiate Big Band, and the Connecticut Western Region Jazz Band.
Dr. Branker’s work as a scholar has been shared at conferences and/or published by the International Society for Music Education, International Society for Improvised Music (ISIM), Research in Music Education (RIME), International Symposium on Assessment in Music Education (ISAME), College Music Society (CMS), International Jazz Composers Symposium (IJCS), International Association for Jazz Education, Foundation for Educational Administration (FEA) / New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA) School Leadership Conference, New Jersey Music Educators Association (NJMEA), the Princeton University Regional Conference – "Big Ideas: Science, Innovation, and Discovery,” and Down Beat magazine. Dr. Branker was recently named to the College Music Society's (CMS) Advisory Council on Improvisation and has served as program scholar for Looking At: Jazz, America’s Art Form, a six-part documentary film viewing and discussion series at the Princeton Public Library in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Humanities, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and the American Library Association.
Dr. Branker has received fellowships or grants from the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board/Council for International Exchange of Scholars, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies, Princeton University, and Ursinus College. Dr. Branker was the keynote speaker for the University of Jyväskylä Music Education Research Seminar in Jyväskylä, Finland and has appeared as guest lecturer for the Department of Pop & Jazz Music at Helsinki Polytechnic Stadia in Helsinki, Finland; Õismäe Russian Lyceum, Tallinn, Estonia; Heino Elleri Nimeline Tartu Muusikakool, Tartu, Estonia; Kuressaare Music Academy on the Estonian island of Saaremaa; the Pop/Jazz Program at Viljandi Kultuuriakadeemia Muusikamajas in Viljandi, Estonia; Winmalee High School, Blue Mountains, Australia; National Endowment for the Humanities Paul Robeson Institute at Rutgers University; “Teachers as Scholars” program for New Jersey Educators at Princeton University; Princeton University Alumni College Seminar "New Orleans: City of Jazz” in New Orleans, Louisiana; the Plexus Institute; and at Drew University. Dr. Branker has also been featured in performance with the Delaware Valley Philharmonic Orchestra as narrator of Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait.”
As a trumpeter, Branker performed and recorded with the Spirit of Life Ensemble – including a five-year residency at New York's internationally renowned Sweet Basil Jazz Club. He also appeared at the Pori International Jazz Festival (Finland); Leningrad/St. Petersburg International Jazz Festival (Russia); Kaunas International Jazz Festival (Lithuania); Estonia International Jazz Festival (Tartu, Estonia); JVC Jazz Festival at Sweet Basil (New York); Panasonic Village Jazz Festival (New York); as well as jazz club performances in France, Finland, Germany, Russia, and New York. In addition, he has shared the stage in a variety of musical settings with such artists as Ted Curson, Talib Kibwe, Guilherme Franco & Nova Bossa Nova, Steve Nelson, Marcus Belgrave, Billy Higgins, John Hicks, Michael Cochrane, Calvin Hill, Eddie Henderson, James Weidman, Stanley Jordan, Benny Carter, Ralph Peterson, Terence Blanchard, Big John Patton, Roscoe Mitchell, Gary Burton, the R&B group Tavares, and has performed in the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway production of Dinah Was: The Dinah Washington Musical. In 1999, medical problems stemming from two brain aneurysms and the discovery of an AVM (arteriovenous malformation) led him to yield his trumpet playing and forced him to take a leave of absence from teaching.
- Beauty Within - Anthony Branker & Imagine (Origin Records, 2016): w/Ralph Bowen, Pete McCann, Fabian Almazan, Linda Oh, Rudy Royston
- The Forward (Towards Equality) Suite – Anthony Branker & Word Play (Origin Records, 2014): w/David Binney, Ralph Bowen, Conrad Herwig, Jim Ridl, Kenny Davis, Donald Edwards, Alison Crockett, Renato Thoms
- Uppity – Anthony Branker & Word Play (Origin Records, 2013): w/Ralph Bowen, Andy Hunter, Eli Asher, Jim Ridl, Kenny Davis, Donald Edwards, Charmaine Lee
- Together – Anthony Branker & Ascent (Origin Records, 2012): w/Mark Gross, Ralph Bowen, Jonny King, Kenny Davis, Donald Edwards
- Dialogic – Anthony Branker & Word Play (Origin Records, 2011): w/Ralph Bowen, Jim Ridl, Kenny Davis, Adam Cruz
- Dance Music – Anthony Branker & Ascent (Origin Records, 2010): w/Tia Fuller, Ralph Bowen, Clifford Adams, Jonny King, Kenny Davis, Adam Cruz, Freddie Bryant, Kadri Voorand
- Blessings – Anthony Branker & Ascent (Origin Records, 2009): w/Steve Wilson, Ralph Bowen, Clifford Adams, Bryan Carrott, Jonny King, Belden Bullock, Wilby Fletcher, Renato Thoms
- Spirit Songs – Anthony Branker & Ascent (Sons of Sound Records, 2006): w/Antonio Hart, Ralph Bowen, Clifford Adams, Jonny King, John Benitez, Ralph Peterson, Jr.
- Voicings – Jann Parker (Self Produced, 2001): w/Jann Parker, Mark Gross, Aaron Graves, Curtis Lundy, Payton Crossley, Steve Kroon, et al.
- Twenty-5ive – Spirit of Life Ensemble (Rise Up Productions, 2000): w/Talib Kibwe, Vinnie Cutro, Michael Cochrane, Belden Bullock, Guilherme Franco, Bruce Cox, Anthony Branker, et al.
- Another Blue – T.K. Blue [Talib Kibwe] (Arkadia, 1999): w/T.K. Blue (Talib Kibwe), Anthony Branker, Bob Ferrel, Michael Cochrane, Calvin Hill, Greg Bufford
- Collage – Spirit of Life Ensemble (Rise Up Productions, 1998): w/Talib Kibwe, Anthony Branker, Clifford Adams, Guilherme Franco, Ted Curson, et al.
- Live at the Pori Jazz Festival 1996 – Spirit of Life Ensemble (Rise Up Productions, 1997): w/Talib Kibwe, Anthony Branker, Bryan Carrott, Ted Curson, Everald Brown, Cleave Guyton, James Stewart, Mamdouh Bahri, Michael Cochrane, Belden Bullock, Greg Bufford, et al.
- The Panasonic Village Jazz Festival 1997 Compilation CD – Spirit of Life Ensemble (International Music Factory, 1997) [recording also features performances of groups led by Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Gil Evans, Geri Allen, Kenny Garrett, et al.]
- Doctor of Education (Ed. D.) in Music and Music Education, Columbia University, Teachers College, 2010
- Master of Education (Ed. M.) in Music and Music Education, Columbia University, Teachers College, 2007
- Master of Music (M. M.) in Jazz Pedagogy, University of Miami, 1983
- Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Music and Certificate in African-American Studies, Princeton University, 1980
While at Princeton University
The mission of the Princeton University Jazz Program under the direction of Dr. Anthony D.J. Branker was to educate and expose the university and greater communities to the artistic and historical significance of jazz by presenting artists and repertoire that are representative of the wide spectrum of styles and conceptual approaches found throughout the music’s evolution. Students involved in jazz performance now have numerous opportunities to concertize, participate in master classes, study privately, and to pursue independent projects. They also have the opportunity to participate in academic courses from the music department curriculum that encourage the study of the historical, social, theoretical, stylistic, and creative issues that pertain to the jazz idiom. In 2008, Princeton University received a multimillion-dollar gift to enhance the study and performance of jazz, significantly expanding the university’s ability to support performances and develop innovative research and teaching in this uniquely American and broadly influential art form. As a result of this generous contribution to the development of jazz studies at the university, Dr. Branker was able to establish the Certificate Program in Jazz Studies at Princeton University.
During Dr. Branker's 27-year career at Princeton (1989-2016), the ensemble program featured two 17-piece big bands (Concert Jazz Ensemble & Jazz Ensemble II) as well as an ever-changing variety of small groups, which have included the Jazz Composers Collective, Jazz Vocal Collective, Free to Be Ensemble, Crossing Borders Improvisational Music Ensemble, Ornette Coleman Ensemble, Lee Morgan Ensemble, Bill Evans Ensemble, Art Blakey Jazz Messengers Ensemble, Standard Deviation Ensemble, Freddie Hubbard Ensemble, Sonny Rollins Ensemble, Joe Henderson Ensemble, Sounds of Brazil Ensemble, Monk/Mingus Ensemble, Herbie Hancock Ensemble, Birth of the Cool Ensemble, John Coltrane Ensemble, Miles Davis Ensemble, Fusion Ensemble, Kenny Dorham Ensemble, Ron Carter Ensemble, Bebop Ensemble, American Songbook Ensemble, Tadd Dameron Ensemble, Horace Silver Ensemble, Ralph Bowen Ensemble, Modal Ensemble, Pat Metheny Ensemble, New Voices Collective, Wayne Shorter Ensemble, Afro-Latin Ensemble, Swingtet, Ellington/Strayhorn Ensemble, Afro-Groove Ensemble, Horace Silver Ensemble, Ensemble X, New Orleans Ensemble, Jazz Saxophone Quartet, Avant Garde Ensemble, Hard Bop Ensemble, Jazztet, and the Jazz Vespers Ensemble. Qualified students have had the opportunity to pursue further studies in jazz performance through the Music Department’s Certificate Program in Musical Performance.
In an effort to provide ensemble members with the opportunity to learn from recognized jazz masters, Princeton’s national award-winning jazz program has been fortunate to sponsor master class residencies and feature its ensembles in concert performances with such internationally renowned jazz artists as Clark Terry, Phil Woods, Terence Blanchard, Slide Hampton, Jimmy Heath, Gilberto Gil, Jon Faddis, Conrad Herwig, Oliver Lake, Frank Foster, Benny Carter, Ted Curson, Orrin Evans, Stanley Jordan, Bobby Watson, Bob Mintzer, Ralph Peterson, Steve Nelson, Antonio Hart, Freddie Hendrix, Don Braden, Kendrick Scott, Brice Winston, Fabian Almazan, Joshua Crumbly, Jacky Terrasson, Jonny King, Walt Weiskopf, Valery Ponomarev, Bryan Carrott, Michael Philip Mossman, Rick Margitza, Ralph Bowen, Mark Gross, Jim Ridl, Clifford Adams, Jeffery Smith, Guilherme Franco, Renato Thoms, Marc Bernstein, Alison Crockett, and Winston Byrd. The program has also been fortunate to feature Maria Schneider, Geri Allen, Omar Sosa, David Binney, Victor Lewis, Fabian Almazan, Edward Simon, Matt Penman, Eric Harland, Robin Eubanks, Bill Frisell, Jamie Baum, Fred Hersch, Joanne Brackeen, Dr. Billy Taylor, Roy Hargrove, Hugh Masekela, Barry Miles, Kenny Davis, James Williams, Craig Handy, Jeremy Pelt, Gene Bertoncini, Jim Black, Bruce Williams, Scott Lee, Bruce Barth, Eddie Allen, Alison Crockett, The Free Tallinn Trio with Jaak Sooäär/Anto Pett/Anne-Liis Poll, The Respect Sextet, Artur Majewski, Kadri Voorand and Her Trio, and Wilson “Willie Tee” Turbinton as guest lecturers in master class situations.
Over the years, the award-winning Concert Jazz Ensemble has dedicated itself to the performance of the historically significant music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. They have presented such works as: “The Far East Suite” and “New Orleans Suite” with the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra; Ellington’s extended orchestral composition, “A Tone Parallel to Harlem” with the Delaware Valley Philharmonic Orchestra and the Princeton University Orchestra; “New World A Comin’” with the Princeton University Orchestra; “The Sacred Concert Music of Duke Ellington” with the Princeton University Chapel Choir as well as with the University Glee Club and Gospel Ensemble; the all-Strayhorn program of big band music entitled, “A Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn”; as well as the Ellington/Strayhorn collaborative adaptation of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” and Edvard Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suites Nos. 1 & 2.” Princeton’s jazz groups have also undertaken a number of stylistically diverse and challenging projects in concert programming. They have presented Lalo Schifrin’s “Gillespiana Suite” written for trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, as well as such programs as “Hotter Than That: Louis Armstrong and the Early Years of Jazz” - featuring music from Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings, Jelly Roll Morton and Fletcher Henderson; “Jazz and the Latin Tinge” - spotlighting classic works from the Latin jazz orchestras of Mario Bauzá, Dizzy Gillespie, Chico O’Farrill, as well as the Brazilian and Afro-Cuban based compositions of Milton Nascimento, Arturo Sandoval, Duke Ellington, and Charles Mingus; “Jazz Meets the Symphony Orchestra” with the Princeton University Orchestra featuring works by Duke Ellington, McCoy Tyner, and Clare Fischer, with orchestral arrangements by Todd Beaney and Anthony Branker; and “A Love Supreme: The Spirit and Sound of John Coltrane’s Music” featuring tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen, the world premiere of a commissioned work for big band by composer and trumpeter Michael Philip Mossman, and a performance of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme suite.
Between 2003 and 2006, Princeton’s jazz program worked in collaboration with The Commission Project (TCP) from Rochester, New York to present new works for big band. Jazz composers who received TCP commissions to write for the University Concert Jazz Ensemble have included Jimmy Heath, Bob Mintzer, Michael Philip Mossman, and Ralph Bowen. Of these commissioned works, Bob Mintzer’s “March Majestic” has been made available through Alfred Publishing and appears on recordings by the Bob Mintzer Big Band (Old School, New Lessons) and the Yellowjackets (Altered State), and Michael Mossman’s three-movement “John Coltrane Suite” has been performed by university and conservatory jazz programs throughout the United States and is published by RGM. Randy Bauer, a Ph.D. recipient and graduate of Princeton’s composition program was named the winner of an Honorable Mention Award in the 2004-2005 ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composers Award Competition for his composition, “Wide-Eyed Wonder.” This work was also made possible thanks to a commission from The Commission Project® and was premiered by the University Concert Jazz Ensemble in 2003. Through funding from Sons of Sound Records, the university jazz program commissioned trombonist Conrad Herwig to compose the Afro-Latin influenced “Reflections of a Man Facing South,” a suite that was premiered by the Concert Jazz Ensemble in 2007. In 2009, the Concert Jazz Ensemble collaborated with the University Sinfonia and the vocal ensemble Fuma Sacra to present the world premiere of “In Another Time,” a five-movement work by composer Laurie Altman. Recently, in 2013, the University Jazz Program and University Orchestra commissioned composer David Sanford to create “Teatro di Strada,” a joint work that was premiered by the Princeton University Orchestra and University Concert Jazz Ensemble featuring tenor saxophone soloist Ralph Bowen.
Under Dr. Branker's direction, Princeton has offered a number of outstanding jazz performance groups. In 2015, the University Free to Be Ensemble traveled to Poland to collaborate and perform original music with jazz studies students from the Stanislaw Moniuszko Academy of Music in Gdansk. In 2014, the University Concert Jazz Ensemble and University Jazz Vocal Collective embarked on a performance tour of Italy to such cities as Rome, Ferentino, Florence, Ponsacco, and Milan. The University Jazz Composers Collective traveled to Australia in 2012 to perform and collaborate with students in the jazz studies program at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. They also took part in a jazz-in-the-schools residency initiative sponsored by the Office of the U.S. Consulate General in Sydney that brought them to Winmalee High School in the city of Blue Mountains, Australia where they performed with jazz students in school’s big band and presented a program of original compositions. The University Jazz Composers Collective has participated in three tours to Estonia (in 2014, 2011, 2006) that were sponsored by the Department of State of the United States of America, the U.S. Embassy in Estonia, and the Estonian Academy of Music & Theatre. The ensemble presented performances at the Estonian Academy of Music, Lindakivi Kultuurikeskus (Cultural Center), Philly Joe’s Jazz Club in Tallinn, Geneva Night Club in the city of Narva (which was recorded for broadcast on Estonian National Radio), as well as additional concerts at Theatre No. 99 and Philly Joe’s Jazz Club in Tallinn where they performed original music created by students in the ensemble and collaborated with students from the jazz studies program at the Estonian Academy of Music & Theatre, Estonian jazz vocalist Kadri Voorand, and guitarist Jaak Sooäär, chair of the jazz department at the academy of music. The Jazz Composers Collective was also featured in performance on Estonian National Television (ETV) and took part in Jazz-in-the-Schools master class presentations at Heino Elleri Nimeline Tartu Muusikakool in Tartu, Estonia and Õismäe Russian Lyceum (Russian-speaking High School) in Tallinn. In addition, the University Jazz Composers Collective traveled to Hong Kong, China in March 2008 for a series of performances, including a night at the Vibe Jazz Club, and the University Crossing Borders Improvisational Music Ensemble collaborated with the experimental jazz quartet Amparo from the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Sweden in concert at Princeton University.
In 1999, the University Monk/Mingus Ensemble was named winner of Down Beat magazine’s Student Music Award for “Best College Jazz Instrumental Group” and Ensemble X was selected by Down Beat as the winner of “Outstanding Performance” honors in the jazz instrumental group category in 2003. The jazz program received its third national prize from Down Beat in 2007 when pianist Julia Brav was awarded “Outstanding Performance” honors in the “Best College Jazz Soloist” category. In addition, Ms. Brav was selected to the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) Sisters in Jazz Collegiate All-Star Quintet and performed with the group at the IAJE 35th Annual Conference in Toronto, Canada and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
The University Concert Jazz Ensemble has been featured in performance at the International Association for Jazz Education International Conference in Washington, D.C., the National Endowment for the Humanities Paul Robeson Institute at Rutgers University, Down Beat MusicFest U.S.A. National Finals (Oakland, California), and has received numerous awards at intercollegiate jazz festivals held at the University of Notre Dame, Villanova University, and Rowan (Glassboro) University. In addition, several students from the Concert Jazz Ensemble were named winners of prestigious “Outstanding Soloist” awards at Down Beat’s Musicfest U.S.A. National Finals and at the Notre Dame Intercollegiate Jazz Festival. The University Afro-Groove Ensemble was featured at the 2004 New Jersey Music Educators Association (NJMEA) State Conference and at the 4th Annual North Texas Jazz Festival with two members of the group receiving “Outstanding Soloist” awards. In addition, the University Jazztet has performed at the Trenton2Nite Women in Jazz Festival, the Princeton JazzFeast Jazz Festival, as well as for numerous Jazz-in-the-Schools programs in the greater Princeton area.
Princeton’s jazz program, in partnership with the Princeton Public Library, was the proud recipient of a 2006-2007 Looking At: Jazz, America’s Art Form grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center, the American Library Association and Re: New Media. The Looking At: Jazz project series was dedicated to exploring the cultural and social history of jazz through the presentation of six compelling documentary films, accompanied by viewing and discussion programs, essays by eminent scholars, and live performances for the community that featured the Princeton University Concert Jazz Ensemble, Swingtet, and Afro-Latin Ensemble.
The Princeton University Jazz Program has also produced fourteen recording projects under Dr. Branker's direction. They include: Telling Stories (Free to Be Ensemble), Love Is What It Is (Jazz Vocal Collective), Onwards (Jazz Composers Collective), Blue/Yellow Dances (Jazz Composers Collective), Expanding Horizons (Jazz Composers Collective), Yesternow: The Princeton University Jazz Program 1989-2004 compilation CD (Concert Jazz Ensemble, Monk Mingus Ensemble, Ensemble X, Hard Bop Ensemble & Afro-Groove Ensemble), It’s All About the Groove (Afro-Groove Ensemble & Fusion Ensemble), Sounds From The Free-Thinking (Monk/Mingus Ensemble) with guest trumpet soloist and former Mingus band member Ted Curson, Music From the Sacred Concerts of Edward Kennedy Ellington (Concert Jazz Ensemble and Chapel Choir), What’s Going On? (Ensemble X), Mosaic (Concert Jazz Ensemble & Hard Bop Ensemble), The Sacred Concert Music of Duke Ellington (Concert Jazz Ensemble, Glee Club and Gospel Ensemble), Mean What You Say (Concert Jazz Ensemble), and 7 Steps 2 Heaven (Concert Jazz Ensemble).
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 7, 2010. Retrieved 2013-01-29.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 19, 2012. Retrieved 2013-01-29.