Sara Graef

College of Arts and Letters
Department of Music
Office Location MUS235
SCG head shot 2014-1

Sara Carina Graef’s music has been performed around the United States as well as in Canada, Turkey, and the Czech Republic. She was awarded the inaugural Northridge Composition Prize for her orchestral score, night shows to my eyes the stars, and won the Premio Citta’ di Pescara Composition Competition in Italy for her piano solo, Nottanosti. She was the recipient of the Sadye J. Moss Endowed Musical Composition Prize and the Hans J. Salter Award for Composition, and was elected to membership in Phi Kappa Phi and Pi Kappa Lambda. She has held residencies at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, the Ucross Foundation, the Ragdale Foundation, the Hambidge Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Ernest Bloch Festival, and the Oregon Bach Festival Composers’ Symposium. In the summer of 2014 she served on the faculty as Composer-in-Residence at the Luzerne Music Center in New York.

Her recent song cycle, Stone, for soprano, trumpet, and piano, was commissioned by performers Nancy Maria Balach and John Schuesselin, both of whom serve on the faculty of the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), where they premiered the work in the spring of 2014. The piece was subsequently performed by faculty at the Luzerne Music Center, and will be recorded in the spring of 2015 as part of a grant from the Presser Foundation awarded to trumpet player Paul Futer. Other 2014 premieres included Brass Bucket, for brass quintet, which was commissioned by the Luzerne Music Center Faculty Brass Quintet and was recently named a finalist in the University of Wisconsin, River Falls Workshop and Competition. Her piano solo, Nottanosti, was recently chosen to be recorded by New York pianist Jai Jeffryes as part of a CD of new piano works, to be released by Steel Wig Records in 2015. Dr. Graef’s most recent commission comes from celebrated “Red Mendelssohn” violinist Elizabeth Pitcairn, who will premiere the piece in New York in November of 2014.

Other notable performances include her commission from the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, Cooling in the Peppermint Wind, which has been performed by both the NMSO and the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, Softly Dancing from the Polar Sky and U.S. Patent No. 821,393. FLYING MACHINE. O. & W. Wright, both for symphonic wind ensemble, as well as an arrangement of Cooling in the Peppermint Wind for symphonic wind ensemble, her arrangement of the Welsh carol, All Through the Night, for orchestra and children’s chorus, Consilience for violin and piano, and Building 58 for player piano, which was part of the Los Angeles-based “Player Piano Project” composers’ consortium commissioning project. In addition to concert music, she has music-directed and composed music for various film, live theater, and television projects, including  “How ‘bout Now?” - a multi-media, interdisciplinary project at California State University, Los Angeles. 

Dr. Graef is a Professor of Music at California State University, Los Angeles. She earned her Bachelor of Music in flute performance and composition from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and her Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts in composition from the University of Southern California, where her principal teachers were James Hopkins, Morten Lauridsen, and Erica Muhl. She served as the President of Friends of Music at Cal State L.A. for seven years, helping to raise money for scholarships for Cal State L.A. music majors, and has served on the board of the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Composers Forum. Dr. Graef has previously taught at the University of Southern California and Whittier College.

Dr. Graef teaches composition as well all levels of undergraduate and graduate theory and analysis, musicianship, form, and counterpoint. She founded the Composer/Performer Collective (CPC) at California State University, Los Angeles in 2012. This collective enables student composers and performers to collaborate throughout the process of writing and performing a new piece, presenting a concert at the end of each quarter. The group has performed six concerts thus far and concentrates on a different instrumentation each quarter, including various chamber ensembles, solo vocal music, solo piano music, saxophone quartet, and percussion ensemble.

In addition to her work in music, Dr. Graef is passionate about photography and nature, and served for several years as the Stranding Coordinator for the Alaska Whale Foundation - a non-profit research organization in Southeast Alaska.