David Amram was born on November 17, 1930 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When he was young he heard the Philadelphia Orchestra and Duke Ellington Band in live performances and these inspired him. As a child he played piano, trumpet, French horn, and tuba. He attended Oberlin for a year and finished his bachelor’s degree at George Washington University. During this time he played French horn regularly as a substitute for the National Symphony. From 1952 through 1955 Amram played French horn in the US Army, for a few bands as well as the Seventh Army Symphony. When he returned to the United States he attended the Manhattan School of Music, studying composition with Vittorio Giannini and horn with Gunther Schuller. He also studied conducting privately with Dmitri Mitropoulos. From 1956 through 1967 he composed music for Shakespeare in the Park. These productions included actors such as George C. Scott and Jerry Stiller. Some of this music would be utilized in his later works. His music for the play JB won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1959. The opera The Final Ingredient was commissioned by ABC and broadcast in 1965. In 1966 he became the first composer-in-residence for the New York Philharmonic.
Musicians influential to Amram include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Duke Ellington, Bela Bartok, cantor Yossele Rosenblatt, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Hector Berlioz, George Gershwin, Dizzy Gillespie, Dmitri Mitropoulos, Tito Puente, Bach, Enrico Caruso, Aragon, Bix Beiderbecke, Gustav Mahler, Johannes Brahms, Willie Nelson, James Galway, and Paquito D’Riveria. Artists he has worked with include Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Leonard Bernstein, Stan Getz, Mohammed Ali, Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp, Dizzy Gillespie, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Jerry Stiller, Arthur Miller, Jason Robards, and Dustin Hoffman. Some of his other important works include the score to the film The Manchurian Candidate and the opera Missa Manhattan. Recently he was composer-in-residence for the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
Works for Winds
- Cajun, from American Dance Suite (1986)
- En Memoria de Chano Pazo (1977)
- Giants of the Night - Concerto for Flute (2002)
- Horn Concerto (1967)
- King Lear Variations (1965)
- Ode to Lord Buckley (1980)
- Rondo alla Turca from Triple Concerto (1971)
- Amram, D. W. (n.d.) Program notes by David Amram on ‘American dance suite’. Retrieved on May 9 from http://www.davidamram.com/classical_reviews/american_dance_suite_2.html
- Amram, D.W. (2002). Giants of the Night: A concerto for flute and orchestra [score]. New York: CF Peters.
- Amram, D. W. (1971). King Lear Variations. On No More Walls [LP Record]. New York: RCA Records.
- Amram, D.W. (1967). King Lear Variations [score]. New York: CF Peters.
- Amram, D.W. (1978). Triple Concerto. [Recorded by David Amram Jazz Quintet and the Rochester Philharmonic, David Zinman conductor]. On Amram Triple Concerto [LP Record]. Chicago: Flying Fish Records, Inc.
- Amram, D.W. (2008a). Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.
- Amram, D.W. (2008b). Upbeat: The nine lives of a musical cat. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.
- Amram, D.W. (1968). Vibrations. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, Publishers.
- Aybar, I. (2002). The confluence of Latin-Carribean styles and Twentieth-century symphonic techniques: An original composition with supporting analysis, and an analysis of En Memoria de Chano Pozo by David Amram. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Northern Colorado, Greely, Colorado.
- Butterworth, N. (2005). Dictionary of American classical composers. New York: Routledge
- Ethington, B.P. (1988). Arch structures in David Amram’s ‘King Lear variations.’ Unpublished Master’s thesis, Baylor University, Waco, TX.
- Howey. B. (1994). David Amram and his alto saxophone concerto, Ode to Lord Buckley. The Saxophone Symposium, 19 (1), p. 5-10.
- Marshall, K. (2002, September 16). Galway inspired in ‘Giants of the Night.’ The Times- Picayune, National p. 11