The Boston Globe has described David Amram as "the Renaissance man of American music". He has composed over 100 orchestral and chamber works, written two operas, and early in his career, wrote many scores for theater and films, including Splendor in the Grass and The Manchurian Candidate. He plays French horn, piano, guitar, numerous flutes and whistles, percussion, and a variety of folkloric instruments from 25 countries.
He has conducted and performed as a soloist with symphony orchestras around the world, participated in major music festivals, and traveled from Brazil to Cuba and from Kenya to Egypt. While actively assimilating the musical cultures of the countries he has visited, he has kept up a remarkable pace of composing, incorporating his experiences in the worlds of jazz, folk, and ethnic music as inspiration and basic material for his formal compositions.
He has collaborated with such notables as Leonard Bernstein, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Charles Mingus, Dustin Hoffman, Thelonious Monk, Willie Nelson, Jack Kerouac, Betty Carter, Odetta, Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller, and Tito Puente.
Since being appointed first composer-in-residence with the New York Philharmonic in 1966-67, he has become one of the most acclaimed composers of his generation, listed by BMI as one of the Twenty Most Performed Composers of Concert Music in the United States since 1974. For twenty-nine seasons, Amram was the music director of Young People's, Family, and Free Summer concert programs for the Brooklyn Philharmonic at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. As conductor, narrator, and soloist on instruments from all over the world, he combines jazz, Latin American, Middle Eastern, Native American, and folk musics of the world, in conjunction with the European classics. In the Spring of 1995, the Brooklyn Academy of Music honored his quarter of a centuryas a pioneer of multicultural symphonic programming. He appears as guest conductor and soloist with major orchestras around the world, as well as touring internationally with his quartet, while continuing to produce a remarkable output of new compositions.
On September 14, 2002, David Amram's new flute concerto Giants of the Night was premiered by James Galway, to critical acclaim.
Other recent commissions include A Little Rebellion: Thomas Jefferson, premiered at the Kennedy Center with E.G. Marshall narrating and Amram conducting members of the National Symphony Orchestra.
Kokopelli: A Symphony on Three Movements, received its world premiere with Amram conducting the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, and has been recorded.
Amram wrote the score for the documentary feature Boys of Winter by Mark Reese concerning the life of his father Peewee Reese and his teammate Carl Erskine of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The film won Best Documentary Film award at the New York Independent Film Festival in September of 2001.
Reese is now doing a documentary film about Amram. An author in his own right, David Amram's new book Offbeat: Collaborating With Kerouac (Thunders Mouth Press) was released in early 2002 to critical acclaim. It describes their work together from 1956 until Kerouac's death in 1969. Amram also details the work he is doing today with a new generation of musicians, composers, authors, poets, and film makers. The paperback version of Offbeat was released January of 2003. His autobiography Vibrations has also been reissued in paperback by Thunders Mouth Press. This new edition includes a forward by historian Douglas Brinkley.
David Amram has appeared on national TV seven times with Willie Nelson for Farm Aid, many times with the late Dizzy Gillespie, as well for as numerous interviews, including David Letterman, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Charles Kuralt, and CBS Sunday Morning. His video, Origins of Symphonic Instruments, released by Educational Video, is in over 6,000 schools throughout the US and Canada. The award-winning documentary Amram Jam was televised nationally and released as a home video in 2005. By the end of 2004 there were fourteen CDs of David Amram's music commercially available, ranging from his popular Triple Concerto for woodwind, brass, and jazz quintets; other symphonic works such asThree Concertos, and David Amram: An American Original, to his classic film score The Manchurian Candidate. Naxos Records is issuing an all-Amram CD in July of 2004, sponsored by the Millken Foundation, of Amram's symphony Songs of the Soul, excerpts from his Holocaust opera, The Final Ingredient, and choral work Sacred Service. His live jazz recording, Kerouac and Amram: Pull My Daisy, celebrates Kerouac and Amram's collaboration in the first-ever jazz poetry reading in New York City in 1957, and the subsequent 1959 film which combined Amram's chamber music and jazz with Jack Kerouac's narration.
Long acknowledged as a pioneer of World Music, virtuoso, performer, brilliant conductor, and composer of uncompromising originality since the 1950s, David Amram's compositions and his unique approach to music are now finding a worldwide audience.
Amram is writing a new book, recounting his continuous adventures around the World. The book celebrates his dual abilities constantly to discipline himself when creating highly structured compositions, while still being able to improvise whenever necessary in music and in daily life, showing the reader how all people can overcome most obstacles and setbacks by utilizing hard work, daring, and always remaining positive.
Paul Maher, Jr., author and American Studies Scholar, is writing the authorized biography of David Amram, tracing the creation of his formal compositions with interviews of the soloists, conductors who premiered them, and in-depth research of all the events that inspired their creation.
Currently guest-conducting orchestras around the World, David Amram creates unique programs combining classical and popular favorites, jazz and world music designed especially for each orchestra's Pops, Young Adult, Family and Children's concerts. He also tours internationally with his quartet, narrating in five languages, and continues composing new works at home on his family farm in upstate New York.