headshot of Dan Cavanagh

Dan Cavanagh is the Pamela O. Hamel/Board of Advisors Director of the Mead Witter School of Muisc at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a Professor of Composition and Jazz Studies.

In 2023 he was awarded  Grand Prize in the Social Justice Category and 2nd Prize in the Wind Symphony/Band Composition category in the American Prize. He received a 2009 gold medal prize from the International Music Prize for Excellence in Composition, and in 2017 he was awarded a Special Judges’ Citation in the American Prize for Chamber Music Composition. As a composer Cavanagh has been commissioned to write for Latin Grammy-winning AfroBop Alliance, the legendary Patti LaBelle, and a wide range of classical and jazz performers across North America and Europe. He has released five jazz recordings as a leader, including Pulse and Heart of the Geyser on Seattle’s OA2 Records, and two recordings with Minnesota-based vibraphonist Dave Hagedorn, Horizon and 20 Years. His most recent recording with James Miley and John Hollenbeck was released on Japan’s S/N Alliance Records in November 2022 to critical acclaim. His music can be heard on many other recordings both classical and jazz. His film scoring work can be heard in the documentary The Beat Hotel, a film exploring the hotel in Paris in the late 1950s and early 1960s where the beat poets, led by Allen Ginsberg, lived and created much of their famous work.

Cavanagh continues to be commissioned and programmed around the world, with recent performances by the Dallas Wind Symphony, the UT Arlington Wind Symphony, bassoonist Laura Bennett Cameron, duality (Vanessa Sielert and Catherine Anderson), Tracy Cowden and Tabatha Easley, the John Brown Big Band, and many more. Cavanagh’s compositions for wind symphony and saxophone/piano are published by Murphy Music Press, and his works for jazz big band are published by UNC Jazz Press, Sierra Music Publications, and E-Jazz Lines.

Cavanagh has performed extensively in North America and Europe as a pianist, and he has also performed in Asia and Central America. He has appeared in concert with Grammy-winners Irma Thomas, Adonis Rose, and Joe McCarthy and a wide number of jazz artists across the world. He has been a finalist in the EuropaFest Jazz Contest in Bucharest, Romania, and in the Jacksonville Jazz Festival Piano Competition.

Prior to his time at UW-Madison he held numerous appointments at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he served for eighteen years. From 2015-2020, he served as the Co-Chair of Region VI for the Society of Composers, Inc., an international organization dedicated to new and contemporary music and composers. Cavanagh serves on the boards of the Madison Symphony Orchestra at the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra, and previously served as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Dallas Winds, a five-time Grammy nominated professional Wind Symphony.

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