After graduating as Student of the Year in his BA in Music at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, with double majors in piano and French Horn, and second studies in composition and conducting, Denniss completed his Graduate Diploma in Horn performance and composition, his thesis being a collection of original compositions for the Horn in many different instrumental combinations, establishing his lifelong 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, he 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.
In this time he formed the Nexus Ensemble in order to perform his own and other contemporary composers’ music, and received many commissions, including from the Solitaire Tuba Ensemble, for “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. Denniss’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 he 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.
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.
A recent collaboration with the Cleveland Film Company on Five Moons of Pluto, where Denniss’s original soundtrack was recorded by the Redland Sinfonia, has resulted in an Award, winning “Best Original Score for a Short Movie” at the South Film and Arts Academy Festival (SFAAF #41), in Chile, March 2021.
Graeme is also an AMEB examiner and many of his compositions appear on exam syllabi.