David Avshalomov is a distinguished third-generation American classical composer and conductor, and an accomplished vocalist. He was born in New York City, grew up in Oregon, and has long lived in Santa Monica, California. He represents a musical lineage (on his father’s side) whose story stretches from the Caucasus to Siberia, through China, to the US.
As a young student, David studied piano, music theory, and percussion. He learned the joys of madrigal singing at home, sang in school and professional choruses, and played timpani in school and professional orchestras (soloing in the Milhaud concerto with the Harvard Orchestra). He began composing (self-taught) in middle school, and wrote and conducted his first choral compositions for his high school choir. He earned degrees in music from Harvard (B.A., Magna cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa) and in orchestral conducting from the University of Washington (where he wrote a noted Doctoral dissertation on the Five Pieces for Orchestra of Arnold Schoenberg), with further conducting studies at Peabody, Aspen, and Tanglewood. His conducting teachers included George Bell, Stanley Chapple, Leo Mueller, Jean Morel, Henry Holt, Samuel Krachmalnick, Herbert Blomstedt, Werner Torkanowsky, Seiji Ozawa, and Leonard Bernstein. His composition teachers included Charles Jones (at Aspen); and John Verrall, Robert Suderberg, and William Bergsma (at UW).
A composer grounded in the traditions of Western classical music, David Avshalomov creates his works in an accessible modern romantic, neo-tonal style that balances a rich lyric gift with a characteristic rhythmic vitality and pungent harmonies. The forms he crafts are conservative and developmental, his compositional voice distinctive. The influences on his style include the great 20th-century European and American tonal composers, and both his late father Jacob and his paternal grandfather, Aaron Avshalomoff.
“Melody is the thread of my daily life. I still find new paths through traditional musical forms, and fresh expression based in folk idioms
and drawing on old melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic roots.”
He has composed works for solo voice, choruses, orchestra, band, chamber ensembles, and solo instruments, in forms ranging from songs and incidental pieces to full-length oratorio. A decade ago he started focusing more on vocal, choral, and band music, and he recently completed his first two operas, with two more on the drawing board.
“As a longtime mountain man and lover of nature and wilderness I am more and more impelled to write music that is about our fundamental connection to nature and wilderness, healing the Earth, and social justice.”
He has had commissions from numerous ensembles, including the Kaplan Foundation of St. Mary’s University, MN; Portland, OR, Jewish Community Orchestra, San Jose Chamber Orchestra, Mission Chamber Orchestra, Musica Bella Orchestra of NY, Western Plains Wind Consortium (20 bands), 2012 Bandwagon Consortium (27 bands), LA Flute Orchestra, LA Clarinet Orchestra, Odyssea Chorus of Lisbon, Anglican Chorale of Southern California, Camerata Singers of Long Beach, Westwood United Methodist Church (LA), and St. George’s Episcopal Church (La Cañada). He has also been Resident Composer with the Anglican Chorale of Southern California, Torrance Civic Chorale, Camerata Singers of Long Beach, and Cantori Domino of Santa Monica.
His compositions have been performed professionally across the U.S. and in Europe, Russia, China, Japan, and South America, and are recorded on the Albany and Naxos labels. He has earned grants from Meet the Composer, the American Music Center, the American Composer’s Forum, and two from the Durfee Foundation. In 2014 he was designated an Honored Artist of the American Prize in recognition of the consistently high quality of his submitted works.
His works have won numerous prizes, including Finalist, Coups de Vents International Band Composition Contest 2020, Paris, (finals November 2021; also Finalist, The American Prize for Band Composition 2021, along with works for chorus and orchestra), Winner (3rd Prize), 7th International Band Composition Competition Harelbeke, Belgium 2019, Kaplan Foundation Commission 2018, St. Mary’s University, Minnesota (new band work on Jewish themes); Hong Kong Children’s Choir 50th Anniversary Choral Selection Winner, 2018; Grand Prize, Solo and Chamber Timpanist’s Initiative Competition 2017; First Prize, International Orange Chorale of San Francisco Choral Composition Contest 2016; American Prize for Band Composition 2016 (2rd Prize), Mountainside Master Chorale (Pomona, CA) Composition Contest 2016 (2nd Prize), First Place, American Prize 2015 for Band Composition (semifinalist in 5 genres, finalist in 3); American Prize 2014 for Band Composition (3rd Place, and dual finalist, Orchestral and Chamber Composition), Special Judge’s Citation for Unique Artistic Achievement and Distinctive Merit from the American Prize for Orchestral Composition 2012; Polifonia (Lithuania) International Sacred Choral Music Competition 2013 (Second Prize), ACDA Silver Platter Award for Outstanding Choral Repertoire 2012; PROJECT: ENCORE Choral Work of Exceptional Merit 2013 (Schola Cantorum on Hudson); The C7 Prize, Canada 2014 (2 choral works), two Wind Ensemble Composition Contests 2013 (Sul Ross State University, TX, and Hillcrest Wind Ensemble, San Diego[Second Prize]); five Vox Nova – Fifteen Minutes of Fame awards 2014-2016, the Aspen Festival Prize, the Korg Competition, and the Santa Monica Debut Concert Series award.
Avshalomov was tapped early as a vocal soloist (starting in grade school in Manhattan). He got his vocal training with his mother Doris (who trained at Eastman), music teacher Nell Givler, choral conductors George Bell and John Ferris, and recently with Glenn Carlos. While still in high school he sang a season with the Munich Motettenchor. At Harvard he was a professional chorister and a frequent oratorio and motet soloist and madrigalist. He served a tour of duty with the USAF Band as a vocalist in the Singing Sergeants (also serving as arranger, composer, and timpanist). After moving to Los Angeles, he sang with several chamber vocal groups including Madrigalia, Cantori di Mezzogiorno, and Soffio di Viento. He continues to sing as a freelance professional bass soloist and choral section leader, with such groups as C3LA, the De Angelis Vocal Ensemble, Anglican Chorale of Southern California, Cantori Domino, Vox Pro, Temple Israel of Hollywood, Temple Sha’arei Am, and Camerata Singers of Long Beach. He also presents solo recitals and performs in local stage opera productions (Center Stage Opera, Redlands Opera Theater).
David Avshalomov is noted for his strong and nuanced bass voice, wide range, stylistic mastery, and emotional renditions. He brings to his own music and the music of others the sensibilities, interpretation, and expression of a mature vocal artist.
For over 20 years, Avshalomov worked professionally as a conductor of orchestras, choruses, bands, and opera. In 1980 he founded the Santa Monica Chamber Orchestra, a period-practice Baroque orchestra, which he led and managed for a decade, earning civic accolades and critical notice. He was music director of several other ensembles on both coasts, and has guest-conducted over 50 ensembles in the US and Japan. He toured in the Far East and Europe, and recorded his own music and that of his grandfather Aaron in Moscow for the Naxos label. He still guest-conducts, particularly performances of his own compositions, and guest-conducted the Santa Monica Symphony in 2021. His conducting work has garnered repeated listings in Who’s Who in Music and Who’s Who in the West.
For balance, David returns to nature. He hikes (off-trail), camps, backpacks, ski tours, and snowshoes in West Coast mountains, forest, and wilderness—habitat where he feels most in harmony. At home he walks, bicycles, swims, boogie-boards, practices Tai Chi,Yoga, and Qi Gong, reads (mostly fiction), studies Torah with a men’s group at his Reform temple, and spends time with his wife Randi, in their Santa Monica Bungalow near the Pacific shore where he has his studio. He also volunteers, planting trees in local forest burn zones and serving at a local food bank and homeless shelter, and canvasses and organizes for social justice.