Phil Sims is a composer, music theorist, and educator living in the Little 5 Points neighborhood of Atlanta, GA. Phil currently works as an administrator and teacher in the Community Music Centers of Atlanta, a network of neighborhood music schools that Phil founded with Diana Orozco in 2007, and which provide students of all ages, skill levels, and backgrounds opportunities to study classical, jazz, rock, and/or roots music with professional musicians and music educators. Phil also works independently and in collaboration with colleagues at the Center to present new works in Atlanta and elsewhere.
For more than twenty years, Phil maintained deep connections with academia. He studied at the Eastman School of Music for a decade, where he received a thorough and yet broad world class undergraduate and then graduate education as a performer, composer, analyst, and teacher. Studies of a vast historical and contemporary repertoire and diverse musical and cultural practices with accomplished specialists like Dave Headlam, Steven Laitz, Robert Morris, Deborah Stein, David Beach, Christopher Rouse, Marie Rolf, Gretchen Wheelock, Robert Wason, David Liptak, George Osborne, Hans Kellner, Aimee Israel-Pelletier (and others) and sustained, intense interaction with many talented and motivated peers profoundly shaped Phil's approach to making music. Even as Phil has turned toward less conventional and more experimental fields of production and expressions of scholarship, the rich musical and intellectual culture of Eastman continues to resonate in his work.
During his graduate studies, Phil was an award winning lecturer in the school's theory department, receiving prizes from both the Eastman School of Music and the University of Rochester for inspired and effective teaching. Phil's pursuits were also supported by a generous fellowship and grants for musicological research in France on music, impressionism, and the examination of "modern" life by composers and performers. Phil studied reactions as reflected in music, images, and writings, with particular focus on works by Erik Satie and others who managed dual careers in both art and entertainment in the rapidly evolving urban setting of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Paris. Since leaving Rochester, Phil has held several academic appointments to teach theory, composition, music technology, computer music, and general music at Mercer University (Macon, GA), the Atlanta Girls' School (Atlanta, GA), and Emory University (Atlanta, GA). He has also served as a teacher, program designer, or guest artist in a number of community and arts settings, including the Atlanta Union Mission, FOCUS (Families of Children Under Stress), Montessori School of Emory, Oak Grove Elementary School, the Atlanta Ballet, and more.
Phil was born in Akron, Ohio in 1967. From birth until leaving for college, Phil lived with his family on Sonata Drive in a 1960s track house development called Melody Village, in an area considered to be one of the outermost suburbs of Akron and (to a lesser extent) Cleveland, Ohio. Early on in childhood, Phil was introduced to musical forms, concepts, and practices by riding his bike and walking a paper route with his best friend along not only Sonata, but also Lyric Drive, Minuet Drive, Tempo Trail, Overture Way, Lullaby Lane, and more. Perhaps if Phil grew up in nearby "Broken Fence" he would have become a cowboy.
Throughout high school, Phil played the trombone in symphonic, marching, and pep band, several different brass quintets, and in a variety of ad hoc brass ensembles. During high school and college, he also played keyboard in a rock band with friends. In addition to teaching him to play the trombone, band directors James Adkins, James Berlyoung, and Peggy Rakas of the Norton City Schools provided a thorough musical education, which became the basis of a lifelong enjoyment of piano improvisation and composition. James DeSano, principal trombonist in the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra and Cleveland Institute of Music faculty, and enrollment in undergraduate theory and composition courses at the University of Akron while still in high school inspired and then prepared Phil to attend the Eastman School of Music.