Darryl Harper

  • Music Department Chair
  • Associate Professor of Jazz History
  • Phone: (804) 828-1166
  • E-mail: dharper2@vcu.edu
  • Office: Singleton Center, Rm. 135

On Sabbatical – Joseph and Grace Valentine Visiting Professor of Music at Amherst College, 2017-2018

Darryl Harper served for seven years as director of the Ward Center for the Arts in Baltimore, Maryland, where he supervised an arts facility that serviced 1,300 students K-12. Harper oversaw the curriculum in music, theater, dance, and visual art, as well as arts programming for the community at large. He also worked for six years in admissions and financial aid at George School, a Quaker school in Pennsylvania, during which time he helped to recruit over 1,000 students from throughout the country and the world.

Harper has performed as a clarinetist in venues throughout the world. His credits include opening concerts for Max Roach, the Billy Taylor Trio, and the Wynton Marsalis Quartet, as well as dates with Freddie Bryant, Orrin Evans, Tim Warfield, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Carla Cook, Roscoe Mitchell, Dave Holland, Uri Caine, and a two-year stint with violinist Regina Carter, touring with her throughout the U.S., Europe, South America and the Caribbean.

As a composer, Harper has published and recorded more than two dozen works. He has written a score for the documentary film Herskovits: At the Heart of Blackness, which garnered the John O’Connor Film Award from the American Historical Society, as well as “Best Documentary” prizes from the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival and the Black Hollywood Film Festival. Harper has also written commissions for choreographers Li Chiao-Ping and Ingo Taleb Rashid and for visual artists Peter Bruun and Elisa Jimenez. Harper has been recognized by critics for “incisive arrangements” and for “richly melodic and … refreshingly inventive” writing.

In the late 1990s, Harper began his career as a bandleader with the formation of The Onus.  The ensemble has performed at venues throughout the country, appeared on television, and recorded several albums on the Hipnotic Records label.  Harper’s groups are acclaimed for their “poise and maturity” and “the empathy Harper and cohorts have developed over … years of working together ….” Harper’s projects as a leader also include the clarinet-piano duo Into Something and the C3 Project, a multi-media presentation of music, video, dance and poetry.

Harper has taught for more than 20 years and has lectured internationally. He has been recognized by his colleagues with a Gold Pin Award for extraordinary contributions to the school community and he has been described as “an excellent role model and a savvy educator who knows how to get through to students.”

Harper holds music degrees from Amherst College, Rutgers University and New England Conservatory. He teaches courses in jazz studies, improvisation, and music history at VCU.

For the 2017-18 school year, Harper will serve as the Joseph and Grace Valentine Visiting Professor of Music at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts. The Valentine Professorship is a one-year appointment designed to bring fresh perspectives to the Amherst College music faculty. The inaugural Valentine Professor, Joseph Kerman, visited Amherst from UC Berkeley and taught Harper as an undergraduate.

Want to learn more about Darryl Harper in his own words? Check out this Q&A.