Graeme Wright Denniss was born in Broken Hill in 1954 and educated at South Broken Hill Primary and Melbourne Grammar School, where he was Music Captain. He was awarded the Student of the Year prize upon completion of his BA in Music at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, with double majors in piano with Allan Fraser and French Horn with Olwen Jones, also studying composition with Alan Lane and conducting with John Curro. His Graduate Diploma thesis was a collection of original compositions for the French Horn in many different instrumental combinations, establishing his interest in enriching the repertoire of the horn. The major work from this thesis, “Cellismas”, was later orchestrated and performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
While studying for his Graduate Diploma, Graeme gained his first full-time position as Fifth Horn in the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, later becoming Acting Principal Third Horn. He subsequently moved back to Melbourne where he held the full-time position of Principal Third Horn in the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for 14 years. During this time he was active as a composer and chamber musician, playing in the Melbourne Brass Ensemble, which toured for Musica Viva and produced a number of CD’s, including Tone Stuffs, featuring Australian composers, and another taken from a live ABC FM broadcast. He formed the Nexus Ensemble in order to perform his own and other contemporary composers’ music, and received many commissions from the Solitaire Tuba Ensemble, including “Tubapotamus Rex”, “Toad in the Hole” and “Processions”. In 1987 he won the Dorian Le Gallienne award commission and wrote “Songs of the Priestess of the Moon” for soprano Merlyn Quaife, a song cycle which has been performed many times in Australia and overseas, and was recorded and broadcast by the ABC.
After leaving the MSO he returned to Brisbane where he completed his PhD in composition in 2004 at the University of Queensland with Philip Bracanin. During this time he played in brass quartet BUZZ which toured for Musica Viva In Schools, giving hundreds of schools concerts for primary students. Graeme’s most performed piece, “Wa Wa Waltz”, was written as a demonstration piece for mutes and special effects for these concerts. This work was later extended for the Best of Brass quintet, where Graeme is Composer in Residence, and became a study piece in the MVIS handbook, as well as being made into an eBook.
In 2010 he was awarded an honorary Fellowship of the National Academy of Music, Colorado USA, for his winning work for solo horn and piano entitled “Bromeliad: the Epic”, in the International Music Prizes composition competition. This work was later orchestrated and extended to become a concertino for horn and chamber orchestra. In 2014 he became Artistic Director and Conductor of the Redland Sinfonia, a 40 piece community orchestra based in Cleveland, which performs the standard orchestral repertoire as well as giving premieres of music by Australian composers and solo opportunities for young performers. Graeme is also an AMEB examiner and many of his compositions appear on exam syllabi.