His father, Philip Werner Amram, introduced David to cantorial music and classical music. Amram's uncle loved jazz, introducing him to recordings of great jazz artists. At the age of seven, Amram began piano lessons. In 1948 he spent a year at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, but earned a bachelor's degree in European history from George Washington University in 1952. He also began composing music for the theater, led his own innovative sextette. David Amram has composed more than 100 orchestral and chamber music works, written many scores for Broadway theater and film, including the classic scores for the films Splendor in the Grass and The Manchurian Candidate; two operas, and the score for the landmark 1959 documentary Pull My Daisy, narrated by novelist Jack Kerouac.
He is also the author of three books: the autobiography "Vibrations," and the memoirs "Offbeat: Collaborating With Kerouac" and "Upbeat: Nine Lives of a Musical Cat." A pioneer player of jazz French horn (along with Julius Watkins), he is also a virtuoso on piano, numerous flutes and whistles, percussion, and dozens of folkloric instruments. He has collaborated with Leonard Bernstein, who chose him in 1966 as the first composer-in-residence for the New York Philharmonic; Langston Hughes, Dizzy Gillespie, Dustin Hoffman, Willie Nelson, Thelonious Monk, Odetta, Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller, Charles Mingus, Lionel Hampton, E. G. Marshall, Johnny Depp, Betty Carter and Tito Puente.
One of Amram's most recent works "Giants of the Night" is a flute concerto dedicated to the memory of Charlie Parker, Jack Kerouac and Dizzy Gillespie, three American artists Amram knew and worked with. It was commissioned and premiered by Sir James Galway. Today, as he has for over fifty years, Amram continues to compose music while traveling the world as a conductor, soloist, bandleader, visiting scholar, and narrator in five languages. He is also currently working with author Frank McCourt on a new setting of the Mass, "Missa Manhattan". On September 29, 2007, Symphony Silicon Valley opened its sixth season at the California Theater in San Jose, California with Amram's Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie, a work commissioned by the Guthrie family several years prior to its premiere. The song referred to in Amram's title is the Guthrie song - "This Land is Your Land" - and each of the symphony's six movements paints a picture of America's landscape during Guthrie's time.
The San Jose Symphony has also commissioned him to compose a new piano concerto. He is the recipient of six honorary doctorates, awarded for his pioneering use of world music in his classical compositions and performances and his collaborations with Jack Kerouac in presenting the first jazz/poetry readings. David Amram has been chosen as the Composer In Residence for the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. He will be involved in several performances during this historic convention. On February 12, 2009, David joined the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College orchestra and chorus, along with the Riverside Inspirational Choir and NYC Labor Choir, in honoring Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday at the Riverside Church in New York City. Under the direction of Maurice Peress, they performed Earl Robinson's "The Lonesome Train: A Music Legend for Actors, Folk Singers, Choirs, and Orchestra" in which David was the Square Dance caller. All his concert music is published by C.F. Peters Corporation (B.M.I.) Read more on Last.fm.
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