As new Schubert Club Composer-in-Residence deVon Russell Gray states, “How many things are there in life that are universal? There’s food, there’s love, friendship, nature and art.” Art is certainly at the forefront of Gray’s mind in this interview as he discusses topics including plans for his upcoming two year residency, dealing with imposter syndrome, and his unique musical style.
deVon Russell Gray’s music reflects equal reverence for Eric B. & Rakim, Mingus, and Bartók. Factor in true love for contemporary poetry, Afrofuturism, astrophysics, Sci Fi animated series, cooking, libations, and other Renaissance activities, and a picture of Gray begins to come into view. Gray envisions a world in which socially constructed divisions fade into oblivion and where concert offerings seamlessly program twentieth century modernists alongside spiritual jazz and free improvisation, adjacent to electronic music and progressive hip hop producers.
Gray began writing original music and compositions at age eight. Drawing on his upper Midwestern upbringing and 1980s hip hop, dVRG developed a deep and profound connection to his community. Today, he is a proud part of the Twin Cities’ rich, diverse, and vibrant arts culture, whether collaborating on theater projects, art shows, radio broadcasts or mentoring younger composers and performers. May of 2018 saw the ninth annual awarding of the HEIRUSPECS Scholarship; a fund began by deVon and his bandmates at their alma mater, St. Paul Central High School which benefits graduating students who demonstrate ties to the arts. He also created a work entitled All Kinds of Blues, Right?!, commissioned and performed by the Central High School Jazz Band, dedicated to the greater Central High community and to the memory of Philando Castile.
Gray’s achievements in composition include a McKnight Fellowship, participation in the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy for Musicians, guest lecturing at St. Olaf College, and most recently Gray was awarded one of the inaugural Jerome Hill Artist Fellowships.