David Amram began his professional life in music as a French Hornist in the National Symphony Orchestra (Washington DC) in 1951. After serving in the US Army, he moved to New York City in 1955 and played French horn in the legendary jazz bands of Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, and Oscar Pettiford. 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 he collaborated artistically for over 12 years.
Since the early 1950s, Amram has traveled extensively, working as a musician and a conductor in over 35 countries and criss-crossing the United States and Canada.
His many films include 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. From 1964-66, he was the Composer and Music Director for the Lincoln Center Theatre and wrote the scores 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, David Amram is now one of the most performed and influential composers of our time. The New York Chamber Music Festival chose him as Composer in Residence for its 2016-2017 season.
His most popular recent symphonic compositions include This Land, Symphonic Variations On A Song By Woody Guthrie (2007), commissioned by the Guthrie Foundation; Three Songs, A Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2009); Greenwich Village Portraits for Alto Saxophone and String Orchestra (2018); and Partners: A Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra (2018)
He has collaborated as a composer with Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller, Eugene Ormandy, Sir James Galway, Langston Hughes and Jacques D´Amboise, and as a musician with Thelonious Monk, Johnny Depp, Hunter S. Thompson, Dizzy Gillespie, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Betty Carter, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Paquito D´Rivera, Tito Puente and Jerry Jeff Walker.
David Amram’s archive of professional and personal papers was acquired by the Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts Branch of the New York Public Library. The subject of the prize-winning full-length feature documentary David Amram: The First Eighty Years, he is the author of three memoirs, Upbeat: Nine Lives of a Musical Cat (2009), Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac (2005) and Vibrations (1968, 2007). His fourth book Amram@90: Notes from a Promising Young Composer will be published in November of 2022, celebrating his 92nd birthday.
Amram’s many awards include a number of New York City honours, among them the Harold Clurman Spirit Award “for courageous contribution to the culture of New York City and beyond” (2014). In 2015, Brooklyn College presented him with his seventh Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, and chose him as their commencement speaker, in recognition of his achievements and continuing contributions to the cultural life of New York City, for 40 years of bringing the worlds of classical music, jazz, Latin, Native American and global roots music together and available for all ages to enjoy. And the Theater for The New City honored him with their annual Love & Courage Award for his years of creating music for the theater, film and spoken word.
In 2017, he was made a Lifetime Member of the Actors Studio, received the first annual Lifetime Achievement Award from Folk Music International and a special award by Farm Aid for 30 years of annual musical collaborations with Willie Nelson and his band to help support America´s family farmers through music.
David’s 90th birthday will be celebrated with concerts and premieres of his works in NYC , Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and cities across the country and overseas.