In 1957, he created and performed in the first ever Jazz/Poetry readings in New York City with novelist Jack Kerouac, a close friend with whom Amram collaborated artistically for over 12 years. Since the early 1950s, he has traveled the world extensively, working as a musician and a conductor in over thirty-five countries including Cuba, Kenya, Egypt, Pakistan, Israel, Latvia and China. He also regularly crisscrosses the United States and Canada.
He composed the scores for the films Pull My Daisy (1959), Splendor In The Grass (1960) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962). He composed the scores for Joseph Papp's Shakespeare In The Park from 1956-1967 and premiered his comic opera 12th Night with Papp’s libretto in 1968. He also wrote a second opera, The Final Ingredient, An Opera of the Holocaust, for ABC Television in 1965.
From 1964-66, Amram was the Composer and Music Director for the Lincoln Center Theatre and wrote the score for Arthur Miller's plays After The Fall(1964) and Incident at Vichy (1966).
Appointed by Leonard Bernstein as the first Composer In Residence for the New York Philharmonic in 1966, he is one of the most performed and influential composers of our time. His most recent symphonic compositions include This Land, Symphonic Variations On A Song By Woody Guthrie (2007), commissioned by the Guthrie Foundation, performed by the Colorado Symphony with Amram conducting and recorded by Newport Classics in 2015; Giants of the Night (2002) commissioned and premiered by flutist Sir James Galway; Kokopeli, A Symphony in Three Movements (1995), premiered by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra with Amram conducting; and Three Songs, A Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2009).
He has also collaborated as a composer with Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller, Eugene Ormandy, Langston Hughes and Jacques D'Amboise as a musician with Thelonious Monk, Johnny Depp, Hunter S. Thompson, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Betty Carter, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Paquito D’Rivera and Tito Puente.
His archive of professional and personal papers were acquired by the Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts Branch of the New York Public Library. And, he was the subject of the full-length feature documentary David Amram: The First Eighty Years, which is available on Vimeo On Demand. Amram is the author of three memoirs, Nine Lives of a Musical Cat (2009), Offbeat: Collaborating With Kerouac (2005) and the highly acclaimed Vibrations (1968, 2007), all published by Routledge Taylor and Francis.
In 2011, Amram was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame as recipient of the The Jay McShann Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2013 he was presented with Clearwater’s Pete and Toshi Seeger Annual Power of Song Award.
In 2015, The Theater For The New City honored him with their annual Love & Courage Award. And in recognition of his enormous achievements and continuing contributions to the cultural life of New York City, Brooklyn College presented David Amram with an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts and chose him as their commencement speaker.
In 2016 he received several awards for his lifetime of work as a classical composer, improvising multi-instrumentalist and pioneer of World Music, while touring internationally and premiering his Three Lost Loves for alto saxophone, violin and piano. And The New York Chamber Music Festival chose him as their composer in residence for their 2016-2017 season.
In 2017, he composed Partners: a double concerto for violin, cello and orchestras, premiered the string orchestra version of his Greenwich Village Portraits for saxophone and orchestra, was made a Lifetime member of the Actors Studio and given a special award by Farm Aid for 30 years of annual collaborations with Willie Nelson to help support America’s family farmers through music. In 2018 he composed the score for Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple’s new documentary feature film about Iraqi and Syrian refugees in Canada.
In early 2018 he composed the score for Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple’s new documentary feature film about Iraqi and Syrian refugees in Canada. In the Fall of 2018, he will attend the World Premiere of his latest symphonic work Partners: A double concerto for violin and orchestra in Ann Arbor Michigan. The National Orchestra of China will present the Asian premiere of his Giants of the Night, a flute concerto composed for flutist Sir James Galway and Jacopo Taddei, the prize-winning 21 year old classical saxophonist, will perform the Italian premiere of Amram’s Three Lost Loves for the opening night of the International Chamber Music Festival in Verona.
In early 2019, he will conduct one of his symphonic works at Carnegie Hall, the New York Philharmonic's brass quintet will present the NY Premiere of his Fanfare and Processional and is composing Voyages for unaccompanied violin for virtuoso violinist Elmira Darvarova, while completing his fourth book David Amram:The Next 80 Years.
In addition to writing new music, he continues to perform around the world as a guest conductor, soloist, multi-instrumentalist, band leader and narrator in five languages.
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