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Living Composer: Gregg Wager

Updated: May 9, 2023

This month's Living Composer is Gregg Wager - an American composer, author, critic, and pianist.

Composer Gregg Wager

Gregg was born in Adrian (Michigan, USA), but grew up in Fresno and Sacramento (California, USA). He began piano lessons at the age of five, and received his first lessons in music composition from his piano teacher, Yuriy Oliynyk, when he was eight.

He studied as a composition student at the University of Southern California. While there, he completed his first string quartet, and also performed as a pianist in many theatrical productions. Upon graduation, he was awarded the Departmental Award in Composition. He stayed at the university for an additional year as a graduate student, and finished a master's degree in composition at the California Institute of the Arts.

Composer Gregg Wager

Gregg released his first vinyl LP "Adjacent Lines and Equal Parts" in 1985, capturing the interest of reviewers such as Joan La Barbara for Musical America/High Fidelity: "Gregg Wager's Adjacent Lines and Equal Parts for solo piano starts with a single pitch struck repeatedly to explore the overtones that ring out, and proceeds through music that nods fleetingly at composer/keyboard wizards Frederic Rzewski and Terry Riley before rushing on to find its own very individual voice [. . .] It is an important first album for this young composer and pianist".

He then became active in the Independent Composers Association in Los Angeles, performing mostly his own works for solo piano, but also "In Space and Time" for 24 players. Upon earning a PhD in musicology at Free University Berlin (Germany), he composed his second string quartet and "Astralis" for guitar and orchestra, most of which was performed in Berlin. In New York City, he worked as an Adjunct Professor in Composition at State University New York at Purchase (New York, USA).

Composer Gregg Wager

Most recently, he is composing operas, including "Where is Frank Mallory…" and "Spectral Evidence Rhapsody".


Gregg's compositions:

  • Adjacent Lines and Equal Parts

  • Music for Playback I (album - tracks and album available for purchase via Bandcamp)

  • Two-Part Inventions and Fugues (album - tracks and album available for purchase via Bandcamp)


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Gregg's top 5 classical music picks:

  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125

  • Stockhausen: Licht (note: the complete work is a set of 7 operas named after days of the week - the video below is from the second act of "Donnerstag" (Thursday))

  • Bach: Das Wohltemperierte Klavier (The Well-Tempered Clavier)

  • Chopin: Études (Op. 10 and Op. 25)

  • John Cage: Freeman Études


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