Demondrae Thurman MMusic 1998 hits so many notes in his busy life that the cadence belies the mellow tones of his horn, the euphonium. A brass instrument smaller than a tuba, the euphonium is rarely called upon in a symphony orchestra’s repertoire, but Thurman’s solo and quartet prowess has brought the instrument onto center stage. Its sound has taken him across the world for performances and clinics in France, Germany, England, Norway, Hungary, and China.
From backing up the Temptations to performing at Madison’s Chazen Art Museum, Thurman acts as a role model for young African American musicians. The 2012 recipient of the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s Forward under 40 Award is a professor of music at Alabama’s Samford University, where he teaches low brass, conducts the wind ensemble, and serves as director of graduate studies.
Thurman also excels at the trombone, baritone, and bass trumpet. He is a founding member and musical leader of the internationally acclaimed Sotto Voce Quartet, which features two euphoniums and two tubas. The group has four recordings, and Thurman has also released three solo recordings.
John Stevens, a UW emeritus professor of music and a mentor to Thurman, says his former student is highly regarded internationally as a performer and teacher: “In reality, he has occupied a position of extremely high esteem in the field since his mid-twenties,” Stevens says.
Thurman has been a leading advocate for the euphonium and its increasing popularity through commissioning or premiering dozens of new works for solo euphonium or euphonium in a chamber setting.
The musician’s ties to campus are tight, despite the fact that he had never visited Madison or even spent more than two weeks outside of his hometown of Tuscaloosa before his graduate studies began. Stevens, whom Thurman says “is like a father to me,” wrote the music for Sotto Voce’s first CD and Thurman’s first solo CD. Another one of his CDs features Martha Fischer, a UW associate professor of collaborative piano.
“The same people who have had such a great impact on my professional life have also become some of my dearest friends,” Thurman says.