David Diamond

From Wind Repertory Project
David Diamond


David Diamond (9 July 1915, Rochester, N.Y. – 13 June 2005, Rochester, N.Y.) was an American composer.

Diamond was playing a violin borrowed from a family friend and writing original tunes in his own system of musical notation by the age of seven. In 1927 the Diamond family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where David's talent finally came to the attention of Andre de Ribaupierre, a Swiss musician teaching in Cleveland, who arranged for him to receive his first formal training at the Cleveland Institute of Music. In 1930 the family returned to Rochester where Diamond continued his studies at the Eastman School of Music with Bernard Rogers in composition and Effie Knauss in violin.

In the fall of 1934 Diamond went to New York on a scholarship from the New Music School and Dalcroze Institute, studying with Paul Boepple and Roger Sessions until the spring of 1936. That summer, Diamond was commissioned to compose the music for a ballet entitled TOM, to a scenario by E.E. Cummings based on Uncle Tom's Cabin., to be choreographed by Leonide Massine. Massine was near Paris, and Diamond was sent there to be near the choreographer. Although, due to financial problems, the work was never performed, Diamond did establish contacts with Darius Milhaud, Albert Roussel, and the composer he revered above all others, Maurice Ravel. (The First Orchestral Suite from the Ballet TOM received its much belated – and much acclaimed – premiere in 1985, conducted by Gerard Schwarz).

On Diamond's second visit to Paris in 1937, he joined the class of Nadia Boulanger at Fontainebleau. He was introduced to Igor Stravinsky, who listened to a four-hand piano version of Diamond's just-written Psalm for Orchestra. With a few revisions based on Stravinsky's appraisal, Psalm won the 1937 Juilliard Publication Award, and was among the compositions influencing his receipt of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1938. After the San Francisco Opera performance of Psalm under Pierre Monteux, Alfred Frankenstein wrote: "On first hearing, the outstanding qualities of this work seem to be its fine, granitic seriousness, its significant compression of a large idea into a small space, and its spare, telling use of the large orchestra." Upon Ravel's death in 1937, Diamond wrote an elegy for brass, percussion and harps (later arranged for strings and percussion), dedicated to the memory of the composer who had been his ideal. The Psalm and Elegy are strong and individual statements from a very young composer.

Diamond was a professor of composition at The Juilliard School for some 25 years, starting in 1973. The renewed interest in Diamond's music starting in the 1980s has coincided with his being awarded some of the most significant honors available to a composer. In 1986, he received the William Schuman Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1991 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Edward MacDowell Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement. His music for orchestra was capped by the late Symphony No. 11 (1989-91), a major work commissioned by the New York Philharmonic in celebration of its 150th anniversary. In his New York Times review, Alex Ross wrote that "the confidence and conviction of the voice are unmistakable...the colossal effort of the Diamond premiere... should stand as a highlight of the current celebratory season." Diamond himself considered the eleventh symphony the summation of his achievement in symphonic music.

He was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts in 1995 by the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington D.C. and just three weeks before he died, Diamond was honored with the Juilliard Medal at the 100th commencement ceremony of The Juilliard School, which had previously awarded him an honorary Doctor of Music degree in 1998. At that ceremony, President Joseph W. Polisi said in a citation: "From 1973 until 1997 you offered your Juilliard students guidance, constructive criticism and the wisdom of your experience. Your students are now following in your footsteps by receiving commissions and winning numerous awards."

Works for Winds


  • David Diamond (composer), Wikipedia Accessed 21 August 2017
  • David Diamond website
  • Whitlock, Mark. "Heart's Music." In Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 6, edit. & comp. by Richard Miles, 495-501. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2007.
  • Worzbyt, Jason. "Tantivy." In Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 6, edit. & comp. by Richard Miles, 897-901. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2007.