At 26 years old, Derek Gray has established himself as an emerging drummer and percussionist on the Canadian music scene. While completing a Bachelor of Contemporary Music Degree at Humber College (where he performed with legendary bassist Dave Holland as a member of the Humber Studio Jazz Ensemble) and an MA in Ethnomusicology at York University (culminating-to-date his research in adapting Afro-Cuban Batá to Drumset), Derek has emerged as one of Toronto's finest young musicians. In Toronto, Derek works extensively as a bandleader, composer, and sideman performing regularly with a variety of projects, including Gray Matter (2016 Julian Award runner-up, co-led with brother Justin Gray), Trans-Mediterranean World music group Ventanas (lead by vocalist Tamar Ilana), and the Indo-Jazz ensemble Monsoon (2x Canadian Folk Music Award nominees for 2015 release, Mandala), amongst others.
Derek has travelled the world studying, performing, and teaching – including time spent in Ghana (Ewe traditional drumming) Cuba (Folkloric Batá studies), Spain (Walking the Camino de Santiago), Italy (Atina Jazz Festival 2011), Switzerland (Drumming mentorship with Julio Davalos), Banff (Artist Residency), New York City (Private studies with Roman Diaz), and Washington (Betty Carter Jazz Ahead).
In 2008, Derek founded the Hand Drumming in the Schools program in which he voluntarily travels to schools in the greater Toronto area and facilitates hand-drumming workshops for students of all ages. In the summer of 2009, Derek travelled to Ghana to study traditional West African hand drumming, and over the course of two months, completed an Ethnomusicology course at University of Ghana. He also studied West African percussion with master drummers Kwasi Dunyo and Ledzi Agudzemegah in Dagbamete, a village in the Volta Region.
Over the past few years, Derek has received a number of awards, including Humber College's President's Medal for leadership, the Garfield Weston National Level Scholarship for leadership, the SABIAN Cymbals Award + Scholarship, the George McCrae Award for musical excellence, and the Principal’s Award for Student Leadership. In the spring of 2011, Derek was selected to participate in the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead residency in Washington, DC. Working alongside talented young musicians/composers from around the world, this two-week long program culminated in performances on the Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Centre. Derek has studied privately with Mark Kelso, Steve Mancuso, Julio Davalos, Roman Diaz, Doug Sole, Don Vickery, Dan Weiss, Clarence Penn, Nate Smith and Larnell Lewis. He has performed with: Pat LaBarbera, Ingrid Jensen, Dave Holland, Tony Malaby, Vincent Herring, David Buchbinder, Jorge Miguel, Esmeralda Enrique, amongst many others.
Derek would like to thank MOPERC, SABIAN, Yamaha, and Vater for the instruments he plays.
Derek extends his deepest gratitude to the Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, and Canada Council for the Arts for their support.
Derek will be performing at our upcoming Cantos Libres, September 30th, 2017 at Casa Maíz. 1280 Finch Avenue West.
Casa Maíz es un espacio cultural cuya misión es apoyar el desarrollo cultural sostenible y participativo de la comunidad Latinoamericana en Toronto y Canadá. Esta labor se lleva a cabo a través de las artes, la investigación, y la cultura en su amplio concepto y a través de la promoción de la creatividad, el espíritu crítico y la innovación de personas y grupos.