Eric Banks earned his BA in Composition (1990) at Yale University, and his Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Music Theory and Choral Studies at the University of Washington. In 1997, Banks was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stockholm; there Eric performed with several groups, including the Swedish Radio Choir and the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir.
In 1992, while still in graduate school, Banks founded the professional-caliber chamber chorus, The Esoterics. Now in its twentieth season, Seattle’s most innovative chorus has drawn local, national, and international praise for performing rarely-heard compositions of contemporary music for unaccompanied voices, for infusing elements of the literary, theatrical, and visual arts into the typical concert experience, and for performing settings of poetry, philosophy, and spiritual writings from around the world. The Esoterics has performed over 300 concerts throughout the Pacific Northwest, has commissioned and premiered over 150 new works for a cappella voices in dozens of languages, and has mastered many of the most virtuosic choral works of the last century. The Esoterics has released fourteen CD recordings to favorable reviews in The Gramophone and American Record Guide. In recognition for their efforts in choral innovation, Banks and The Esoterics have been honored four times with the ASCAP/Chorus America Award for the Adventurous Programming.
In his music, Eric is drawn to ideas that are ‘esoteric’ in origin, and chooses to express and elucidate concepts that are undiscovered, under-represented, or not easily decipherable by a wider audience. As a composer, Banks has harnessed his passions for foreign poetry, classical civilization, comparative religion, social justice, and natural science – to create choral works that reach far beyond the scope of the established a cappella canon. As a composer and choral scholar, Eric has been awarded several grants, from the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation (2005), 4Culture (since 1999), Seattle City Artists (2007), a composer’s fellowship from Artist Trust and Washington State Arts Commission (2007), and three ASCAPlus Awards (since 2009). Together with The Esoterics, Eric Banks has received two grants the National Endowment for the Arts, to compose, produce, and record his most recent concert-length works – Twelve Qur’anic visions (2007), and The seven creations (2010). In both of these works, Eric set melodies that he found in field research while traveling in Indonesia and India, including the Arabic tajwid (Islamic Qur’anic chants), and the Persian gathas (ancient Zoroastrian hymns). In the summer of 2008, Banks presented the paper Contemporary American Choral Music Inspired by Islam at the inaugural conference of Arab choral music, Aswatuna, in Petra, Jordan. In 2012, Eric received awards from the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Composer Assistance Program of New Music USA, and his choral ballet Approaching ecstasy was premiered in Seattle to wide critical acclaim.
In June 2010, Eric was granted the prestigious Dale Warland Singers Commission Award from Chorus America and the American Composers Forum to compose This delicate universe, a cantata based on climate-change statistics, for the choral ensemble Conspirare in Austin. He currently holds commissions from the Boston Children’s Chorus, Clerestory, Kitka, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, Seattle Opera, the Singapore Youth Ensemble, the Verge Ensemble, and Voces Nordicæ. Eric taught music theory, music history, musicianship, composition, and voice at Cornish College of the Arts from 2004 to 2012, and has been a visiting scholar at the Cama Oriental Institute in Mumbai, India.