Don Grusin
Jazz Keyboardist, Composer, and Record Producer
2022 Performer • CU Alumnus

Poncha Springs, Colorado

Don Grusin truly epitomizes the term visionary.​ Artist, innovator, educator, performer and advocate for social change, Don Grusin Music and Bad Dog Music are the production houses and publishing entities for this esteemed American composer, producer, arranger and pianist with 3 Grammy’s, 20 CD’s and an unstoppable global vision that infuses everything he does from recording to teaching.​

Born in Colorado and influenced mightily by his immigrant father from Latvia, Don grew up as a wannabe cowboy, played sports in school, and always had music as something to fall back on - if you grew up in the Grusin household, you had to play (read: practice) piano. Don started when he was 6, and his musical influences came from square-dancing to country bands at the local grange; from pianists Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans and Vladimir Horowitz; to his dad’s strolling through the house playing 2nd violin parts of Bartok string quartets.

Also of influence was their small town R&B radio station where Don digested the music of the great soul and funk bands and singers and immersed the ‘Groove’ into his playing trademark. This early experience was also how his interest in African and Latin American music was born. Adding to this was his older brother Dave’s influence, who pointed him, unwittingly really, to the great jazz players of the 1950’s-60’s.

To complement his interest in world music, Don obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a Masters Degree in Economics from the University of Colorado. He taught as a Fulbright Professor of Economics at the Autonomous University in Guadalajara, Mexico, before returning to the U.S. to enter the music business full-time after joining Quincy Jones’ band for a Japan-U.S. tour in the mid 1970s. 

Don was the creative spark-plug for the acclaimed Atlantic Records fusion ensemble Friendship, and from there proceeded to record and produce scores of albums over the course of the next 35 years – including 20 of his own - as well as composing for and producing Ernie Watts’ Grammy-winning Quest CD, Musican.