Faculty & Staff Profiles

Joseph Gramley

Associate Professor of Music, Director of Percussion Studies

Joseph Gramley is associate professor of music and director of percussion studies at the University of Michigan. He is also director of the University’s famed Percussion Ensemble.

Gramley’s dynamic and exciting performances as a soloist have garnered critical acclaim and enthusiasm from emerging composers, percussion aficionados, and first-time concert-goers alike. He is committed to bringing fresh and inventive compositions to a broad public, and each year he commissions and premieres a number of new works. His first solo recording, American Deconstruction, an expert rendition of five milestone works in multi-percussions huge new modern repertoire, appeared in 2000 and was reissued in 2006. His second CD, Global Percussion, was released in 2005.

It was an invitation from Yo-Yo Ma in 2000 that led Gramley to join Yo-Yo Ma’s SilkRoad Ensemble. In addition to participating in the group’s extended residencies in cities across the globe, Gramley has toured with Yo-Yo Ma and the Ensemble throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, performing in the world’s finest concert halls. Along the way, Gramley has studied percussion styles and instruments from around the globe, collaborating with internationally renowned musicians from India, Iran, China, Japan, Korea, and Central Asia. He has appeared on several top-selling albums with Yo-Yo Ma on the SonyBMG label, and with other members of the Ensemble. Sony released A Playlist Without Borders in September 2013 in tandem with a nationwide broadcast of the accompanying DVD on PBS. Gramley has also appeared with Mr. Ma when the two of them were guest artists with the Nashville Symphony. He is a former chair of the Silk Road Ensemble’s Leadership Council. A film about the Ensemble-The Sound of Silk, directed by Oscar-winner Morgan Neville-will be released in 2015.

In addition to his solo and Silk Road work, as well as his frequent appearances with chamber groups and orchestras, Gramley performs with the acclaimed British organist Clive Driskill-Smith in the duo Organized Rhythm. The pair’s first recording, Beaming Music, was issued in 2008; they have appeared across the US and at two AGO conferences.

Gramley has performed with the Metropolitan Opera (on stage with Placido Domingo); Pierre-Laurent Aimard (U.S. tour); Orpheus Chamber Orchestra; Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Chicago Symphony Orchestra (soloist); St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (guest principal timpanist and percussionist); Seattle Symphony, Orchestre de Lyon; Dawn Upshaw (US tour); David Robertson (Carnegie Hall); Spoleto Festival (soloist); Martha Graham Dance Company; Merce Cunningham Dance Company; New York City Ballet; Glen Velez (US tour); Keiko Abe (PASIC);  Aretha Franklin; Elton John (at Radio City Music Hall and on worldwide TV and DVD); Kayhan Kalhor; Alim Qasimov; Wu Tong,; Sandeep Das; and numerous others. Gramley is principal timpanist and percussionist with The Knights chamber orchestra. He has toured the U.S. and Europe and recorded a number of albums on SonyClassical with the group.

Born in 1970, Gramley grew up in Oregon and was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts while a senior at the Interlochen Arts Academy in 1988. He did his undergraduate work at U-M and also attended the Tanglewood Institute and Salzburg Mozarteum.

Gramley made his concerto debut with the Houston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christoph Eschenbach after winning their National Soloist Competition and made his solo debut at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall in 1994. After graduate studies at the Juilliard School in New York, he performed and recorded with the Ethos Percussion Group throughout the U.S. and Europe. He has taught at U-M since 2007.

Gramley has directed the Juilliard Summer Percussion Seminar for 14 years. This is an intensive program for high-school students that is held annually at Lincoln Center in New York City. He presents masterclasses across the world and has lectured at the Juilliard School, with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, at UC-Irvine (with Ko Umezaki), and the universities of Wisconsin, Michigan State, Princeton, and Harvard, among many others.  When in residence at Harvard, he collaborates with the Graduate School of Education on their yearly “Passion Driven Learning” Institute and works with undergraduate music students.

“Brilliant” –The New York Times

A “mind-blowing percussionist” –Reno Gazette-Journal

“A Heifetz of the marimba”-Cleveland Plain Dealer

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