Division: Classical Performance and Composition
Program: Choral and Sacred Music
Cristian Grases was the interim director of choral activities at Central Washington University and associate professor in choral music at California State University, Los Angeles. In 2001, he finished his master’s degree with honors in choral conducting with María Guinand and Alberto Grau in the Simón Bolívar University in Venezuela, and in 2009 obtained his doctoral degree at the University of Miami in Florida.
Born in Venezuela in 1973, Grases started his musical studies in Caracas at age 11. He developed as a chorister and instrumentalist, and then as a composer, assistant conductor, and conductor of choral and instrumental ensembles. He has studied composition, arranging, choral conducting and orchestral conducting with national and international music masters. After two Bach-academie workshops with Helmuth Rilling in Venezuela, Grases was invited by Rilling under a scholarship to study choral and orchestral conducting at the Sommerakademie in Stutgart, Germany, in 1998.
In 1995, Grases founded Cíncopah, a five-voice male vocal ensemble that is dedicated to the creation of new music based in vocal and jazz tendencies; he worked with them until 2002. From 1996 to 2002 he was part of the staff of the project Pequeños Cantores de la Schola as the conductor of the Second Level and Cantoría Juvenil. That same year Grasas received a prestigious award for the arts in Venezuela: Orden José Felix Ribas for artistic merit. He also won the first and second prize in the choral arrangement competition Estilo Caribeño.
Grases has been involved in many international concert tours with his former youth choir, Cantoría Juvenil of the Schola Cantorum de Caracas (Venezuela) and the Iowa Youth Chorus (USA), earning international prestige and recognition. He has served as guest conductor in concerts and workshops, nationally and internationally, and has been the coordinator of choral activities in the Youth Orchestra Foundation of Caracas under the direction of Jose Antonio Abreu.
He has also taught choral conducting and methods, music history, world music and general music at the undergraduate and graduate programs in the Simon Bolivar University of Caracas, Central Washington University, University of Miami and California State University, Los Angeles. He was selected to be one of 16 participants of the Swedish competition for young conductors Eric Ericson Award in October 2003. In 2004, he was selected by the IFCM (International Federation for Choral Music) as one of a five-member committee for the Songbridge Project, together with renowned choral masters and chaired by the creator of the project, Erkki Pohjola (Finland). Grases won first prize at the Emerging Composer Competition at Yale University in 2008 with his work Visiones del Llano – 2. Amanecer.
Grases has participated in numerous festivals, workshops, and events as a guest conductor, clinician, adjudicator and conducting pedagogue in North and South America, Europe and Asia. Among the most recent ones are workshops and sessions as a guest conductor in France (Europa Cantat Jr.), Denmark (World Symposium on Choral Music), The Netherlands (Europa Cantat), and Caracas, Venezuela (conducting the Simon Bolivar Orchestra); masterclasses and adjudications in Indonesia, and commissions for ensembles in the San Francisco area.
During his tenure in Miami, Grases was the founder and artistic director of the Amazonia Vocal Ensemble, which is based in Miami and focuses on Latin American repertoire; was the conductor for the Women’s Chamber Ensemble of the University of Miami; was the assistant conductor of the Miami Symphony Orchestra under Maestro Eduardo Marturet; and the conductor of the Young Musician’s Orchestra. Grases was selected to be part of the Board of Directors of the International Federation for Choral Music in 2008. He is currently assistant professor in the department of choral and sacred music and the conductor of the USC Thornton Concert Choir at the University of Southern California.