Ralph Towner

Ralph Towner was born in Washington in 1940. He moved to Oregon when he was five years old and became a teacher there. At age five, he began to play the piano and imitate recordings from World War II. Towner’s family was all musicians and all instruments were represented in the family orchestra. Ralph started formal trumpet study at age seven and began playing in swing, dixieland and polka bands. His mother was a pianist teacher and organist. He decided not to learn the keyboard and continued his studies as an improviser/pianist. He graduated from the University of Oregon in classical composition and then went to Vienna to study classical guitar. This instrument was discovered during his fourth year of college. After a year of studying under Professor Karl Scheit, he returned to the University of Oregon to continue his graduate studies with Homer Keller. He then returned to Vienna for a second year of education. He then moved to New York City in 1968 to continue his career as guitarist-pianist-composer in earnest. He added keyboard synthesizers in 1980 to his instrumental repertoire. He has recorded more than thirty albums under his name since 1970. He has also collaborated with Keith Jarrett (Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter), Weather Report (Joe Zawinul, and Wayne Shorter), Egberto Gismonti, Gary Burton and Gary Peacock in concert and/or recording. He has been honored with numerous awards including two German Grammies (Deutsche Schallplatten Preis), for the best 1976 jazz recording (Solstice), with Jan Garbarek and Eberhard Weber and John Christenson, and again in 1988 with Ecotopia (Paul McCandless and Glen Moore), a U.S. Grammy nominee, the Downbeat magazine poll and the New York Jazz Award for best New York City acoustic guitar. He has performed all over the world in Asia, Africa and South America as well as in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and North America. Towner has recorded more than 100 of his instrumental compositions. His many orchestral compositions were performed by the Stuttgart Opera Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra as well as the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Freiburg Festival Orchestra. The Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra commissioned his recent symphony and performed it. He also wrote a book about improvisation and performance techniques in classical guitar and composed and directed a large work for string quartet and wind quartet that was commissioned through a grant from The AT

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